We actually put Louis Vuitton's Archlight on our list for 2017 and the shoe didn't even drop that year. At the time we put it on our list the name hadn't been made public and all we saw were pictures. Now that we've had a year to see the shoe in action, it's good enough to make the list again (this time it's at least it’s official). The Archlight is a truly amazing in sneaker design for a few reasons, but the biggest is the most obvious: the sole. At a time when heavy, chunky soles are in vogue, Louis Vuitton has created a sole that plays with the eye to different ends: This was all about reshaping the perception of the foot and making it far more dynamic. And it works. For reconfiguring how we see our own biology, the Archlight is definitely one of the best of the year.
We don't want to confuse the two very different trends of Dad Shoes and Chunky Shoes, but the Balenciaga Triple-S represents the peak for both of them. Those trends are petering out, but we cannot deny that the Triple-S has had a massive impact, and the reverberation continues. Each chunky sneaker released since the Triple-S seems like a weak knock-off of the sneaker that truly set the tone. The year has also seen the silhouette develop and change in both look and price because the shoes sell out as quickly as Balenciaga can make them. It's truly a phenomenon.
A-Cold-Wall*’s Air Force 1 from 2016 is this writer’s favorite sneaker of the last decade, so any related follow-up is going to land squarely on this list. What made the original such an incredible pair was how it took fresh out-of-the-box lacing and turned that into the default for a pair of Forces—it formalized a counter-culture aesthetic into the only option. The Low version released at the end of this year continues the same lacing pattern with a mostly smooth upper that approximates the panels of the high. We’ve lost some of the textures off the original, but ACW has hit it out of the park again thanks to their grasp on how sneaker culture interacts with the wider world.
The Air Jordan XI Concord is one of the most famous sneakers of all time—not even for basketball or Jordans, but of all time. It's not just that they're a total 10 out of 10 on aesthetics, but they also carry cultural weight that few other sneakers can. It was the Concord release in 2011 that brought sneaker culture into the center of the wider conversation, and that news-cycle changed everything for sneakerheads all over the world. Suddenly we were on the national news, and even though it was for bad reasons (riots, violence, theft), the world was finally paying attention. This release was much easier to get than the 2011 pair, but they still hold the same significance.
You're probably not going to find these new Nike Vandals on anyone else's "Best of the Year" lists, but we're OK with that. There's nothing particularly notable about these Vandals except for the fact that they're amazingly executed. The Vandal has been around for decades in colorways just like this black and gold one, but the combination of elevated construction with black satin and gold leather makes for a sneaker that's unmissable. Especially at $90. These are a total General Release that are unlikely to sell out any time soon, and even less likely to inspire sneaker collectors to snatch them up and sit on them for years. But they're something special.
Your foot rolls through each step, and your walking sandal must be flexible enough to roll with it as well. Too stiff of sole will have your foot fighting the sandal with each step. The sandal should be able to flex in the forefoot. Look for running sandals or trails sandals that provide the cushioning, support, and flexibility features of athletic shoes.
The Justin Timberlake take on the new Air Jordan 3 wasn’t just a game changer because it used the original Tinker Hatfield sketch for the iconic Jordan 3 as the design base (that includes a Swoosh that seems intrusive 30 years later), but also because Nike dropped the shoes when Justin Timberlake took the stage during the super bowl. It was a true sneaker moment that definitely goes down as a hallmark of 2018.
Not to outdo the original Ash Green 4D from Adidas, Taiwanese brand Invincible brought the shoe to the next level. The "Prism" pair is here because the upper sets it apart. Where the OG 4D is remarkable for its sole, these Prisms stand on their own even if they didn’t have a 4D sole. Adidas and Invincible basically hacked the Primeknit process to hide a rainbow of yarns into the knit under a gray outer shell. The result is dynamic and textural. Knit sneakers have been around for a minute, and while they've made advances in textures, this is the best use of color we've seen industry-wide.