Keeping up with sneaker releases in 2017 could have been a full-time job. With drops happening around the world, every single weekend (and plenty of weekdays) from brands, department stores and sneaker boutiques, we rely on the internet to tell us what is worth paying attention to. In most cases, the cream rises to the top. But with the never-ending stream of product, that often means great gear gets overlooked.
Plenty of memorable collaborations, new styles and vintage rereleases paved the way for a killer 2017. But for every Tom Sachs Mars Yard 2.0, or Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Jordan 1, there were a handful of other sneakers that were greeted with slightly less fanfare.
These are the most underrated sneakers of 2017.
Arthur Huang x Nike Air Max 1 Ultra 2.0
Collaborations began as a unique opportunity for creative forces to unite and put out a product that most consumers would line up for. But the past few years have left the market diluted by uninspired projects.
However, when Nike tapped designer Arthur Huang, who the Swoosh previously tapped to lead the design of its NikeLab locations, it landed an unexpected, but daring collaborator. The resulting shoe is nothing to scoff at either.
A triple black shoe can easily veer into the realm of the geriatric, but the balance between the Flyknit toebox and sleek leather panels kept it wearable and under the radar of many mainstream sneaker shoppers.
Vetements x Reebok Genetically Modified
For better or worse, Vetements has captivated a fashion industry in need of fresh blood. With Demna Gvasalia and his collective of designers in tow, the brand has brought its avant garde, somewhat satirical aesthetic to the sneaker world.
The brand’s previous Reebok collaborations featured DIY scribblings, but the most recent evolution of the Instapump flipped the silhouette on its head, copying and pasting distinctive details in random locations to make an unforgettable sneaker.
At around $900 USD, they might not find their way into your rotation, but these left us with something to remember.
Gyakusou x NikeLab Gaiter
Jun Takahashi’s ongoing partnership with Nike has pushed running gear into the fashion world’s consciousness through high-end, techy apparel and off-beat footwear that is as notable on the trail as it is off it. But the Japanese designer’s latest collection turned out its most groundbreaking pair of sneakers yet: the Gaiter.
With a thick, rugged sole, outer membrane that covers the entire foot and lockdown buckles meant to keep you stable as you traverse the trails rather than running paths, the Gaiter feels like a running shoe straight out of Blade Runner, and that’s definitely a good thing.
Daniel Arsham x adidas New York
With a style that mimics unfinished plaster, along with installations at multiple KITH locations, Stampd’s LA flagship and Public School’s runway shows, Daniel Arsham and Snarkitecture have found an important role in the sneaker world. 2017 further solidified that with an actual sneaker collaboration on adidas’ New York model.
Calling on Arsham’s aesthetic with raw edges and loose fibers, the shoe also features invisible ink writing on the midsole. The sneaker world’s dedicated audience can pick up on nuance, and this one provided plenty of it.
Nike SB Dunk High Pro “Momofuku”
Nike’s efforts to curb bots and resellers went an entirely new direction with the release of the Momofuku Dunk High Pro. Dressed in denim that echoed the aprons of staff members at chef David Chang’s restaurants, the only way to purchase the sneakers initially was to use the SNKRS app while at the Fuku East Village location in New York.
Although the pair eventually received a wider release at NikeLab locations, Chang’s devotion to the SB silhouette falls in line with his previous efforts to feed the city’s skate scene on “Go Skateboarding Day,” making this collaboration a perfect partnership.
Nike LeBron 15
Performance basketball sneakers tend to land on the outside looking in when it comes to year-end sneaker lists. And while Nike’s latest signature LeBron model may have garnered some attention in 2017, most of it came with the caveat that “it’s a great-looking basketball shoe.”
For that reason, it lands here—once again on the outside looking in, so to speak—but with some much deserved recognition. The new Battleknit upper brings increased durability while remaining incredibly light, and its sleeker shape makes it the most wearable LeBron sneaker yet.
Nike Air Max 97 Premium
The Nike Air Max 97 turned 20 this year and Nike made sure that everybody was prepared for the celebration. The original Silver Bullet colorway and newer gold took home most of the headlines, but the four-colorway set made with premium suede debuted to little fanfare at the tail end of spring.
Their earth tones, nappy suede and solid construction made for sneakers that played complement to an outfit, rather than stealing the show like the flashier silver or gold versions may have. While the non-OG colorways may be a turnoff for devoted sneakerheads, those looking for a well-rounded shoe found their go-to in a range of wearable colors.
For most sneakers, form trumps function. Whether we are able to fold a new pair into our rotation and with our wardrobe remains top of mind each time we spot another pair worth copping. But the AC.07.KMTR puts function first.
A slinky, one-piece upper scrunches and bunches around the foot with the tug of a ripcord and fastens down with a buckle to hold your foot in place—the polar opposite of shoelaces and an innovation that few would ever think of trying. With water-resistant fabric, a lightweight build and a range of mostly muted colors, the Nike AC.07.KMTR became a shoe ready for everyday wear, just as it was meant to.
Y-3 is no stranger to putting out noteworthy sneakers. From the Qasa to ZG Knit Runner, Y-3 has regularly turned out daring new silhouettes with futuristic styles. Add the Ryo to the list.
In a year when hiking and trail sneakers had their moment in the sun, the Ryo blended the best of both worlds with a sleek, yet sturdy shoe that feels just as at home in the city as on the hillsides. Swapping laces in favor of adjustable straps and opting for a water-repellent upper with a sock-like fit, the Ryo is yet another one of Y-3’s continuing pantheon of great footwear.
Aprix Suede Low
When Noah first relaunched, its preppy, elevated aesthetic turned off some of the Supreme holdovers who only knew Brendan Babenzien’s work for the maker of the box logo. But over the past couple years, Noah has turned out dependable, wearable clothing and with the accompanying sneaker brand Aprix, put together a line of simplistic footwear worth waiting for.
The low-top suedes that released early in 2017 are a refined shoe perfect for everyday wear. With a sloped shape reminiscent of an adidas Gazelle and made of soft suede, they might feel a bit rudimentary at first. But in a time when luxury brands and startups alike are trying to follow the blueprint of Common Projects’ minimal offering, Babenzien and Aprix have done so without falling victim to the larger sneaker machine.
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