The addition of shearling is a textural detail that subtly transforms our most popular models into something unexpected. The Amazon Shearling lines its footbed with puffs of fur, and the Daytona takes its criss-cross strap and adorns one side with the same lambskin for the coziest cool weather look. These styles move easily between the transitional months where socks are optional.
This year saw the wide release of Adidas’s Futurecraft 4D, a true advancement in sneaker technology. Adidas has solved the problems around 3D printing, using a fast and efficient process to mass produce soles in a sustainable way. Each sole contains up to 12,000 "struts," or printed arms, that have been carefully and individually calibrated to create the most supportive sole possible. The 4D carries with it a massive price tag, but all advances come at a cost. The shoes look amazing and are honestly worth every penny.
At first blush, the Travis Scott Air Force 1s with Nike don't seem like much. In fact, they might even seem familiar because the silhouette was introduced late last year. But if you take a closer look, you'll see how special this version actually is. The canvas-like upper lends itself beautifully to customization, something we've already seen work out gloriously. But the shoe goes even further. The unique piping all over the sneaker is colored 3M, and the swooshes are removable; each sneaker comes with a collection of different swooshes made from different materials that can be swapped out depending on your mood. These Travis Scott Air Force 1s end up representing our favorite kind of footwear—the kind where there's more than meets the eye and invites a personal touch.
It's no secret that the Air Max 270 Bowfin is one of the stranger silhouettes that released this year, but it suddenly made sense when we caught the Atomic Violet colorway. The shoes are wild: The uppers are a mess of materials with an attached tongue, a ribbon-constructed lacing system that culminates in a lacelock, and even a ripstop top that acts as a shield for the rest of the shoe. The sole is a triumph on its own: texture and line come together with a bright mudguard, and then a 270-degree air bubble at the heel. There are subtler colorways of the kicks, but with a blend of lavender, pink, mustard, white, and black, the details of the shoe are elevated and we get to see what makes it truly unique.
If you know Bape, you know it rips heritage designs from other companies, but that's also sort of their thing. Also sort of why we love them. The Bapesta is a shameless rip-off of the Air Force 1, and while Bape consistently puts Bapestas out year after year, it's far rarer that we see them in Bape's iconic "1st Camo." The 1st Camo is the graphic camouflage that made Bape famous, so the combination of camo and sneaker promised a firestorm of hype. And the shoes made good on that promise. Even if you're not caught in the hype, they have a unique charm to them and will ultimately prove to be one of the best releases of the year.
The other thing to think about is whether you would like to have a thong style sandal or one that simply crosses over the top of the foot. The thong style gives you the comfort of being able to hold the sandal in place simply because of how the thong goes in between your toes. This will require less straps and securing straps in the rest of the shoe. The majority of cheap price sandals are made without a thong as these are more considered to be used in beach shoes rather than in a proper shoe that can be worn in more formal settings. You will need to decide on how casual your look is to decide if the thong is a look that you can support or it is something that you're going to want to save for when you're headed to the beach.
It was only two years ago that Acronym released its first Presto with Nike, even though it feels like a generation ago in terms of sneaker releases. Predating the Off-White collection, the remix that Acronym brought to the Presto was a big surprise—at that point Nike very rarely let collaborators edit its silhouettes. It was a shot across the bow for traditionalists, and caused a well-deserved fervor. This year they followed up the partnership with a trio of Prestos that played with pattern as much as texture, and color as much as expectations. We don't think the 2018 pairs quite live up to the 2016 pairs, but they're still a welcome addition to 2018's list.
Kendrick Lamar moving from Reebok to Nike was a natural because Nike gave him the Cortez, and nary has a combination of sneaker and artist felt more seamless. Kendrick used the opportunity to put out a series of colorways inspired by his music and evolving identity, offering a range of aesthetics. The Cortez Kenny III is the best one yet. Black, white, and red play off classic sneaker colorways, but Lamar injected the sneakers with details like Chinese characters embroidered into the toe and "BET IT BACK" printed on the tongue ribbon. It's a brilliant pairing.
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.
2018 can boast some truly innovative steps in sneaker design, and the DMX Fusion 1 from Reebok and Pyer Moss is squarely in the pantheon of that arena. The silhouette itself is like a dozen other sock runners, but the lacing system is almost mind-boggling. The laces start at the very toe and help inform the shape of the vamp as they pull back to the quarter. Once at the quarter they crisscross a few times through loops, which are rigged so low on the shoe, they're almost at the sole. The laces then wrap around the heel before coming back to the tongue for closure with a lacelock. It's a complicated but refreshing system, and it opens the door for a lot of customization.