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.
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 AlphaBounce has been a great sneaker for Adidas, opening the brand up to runners on a tighter budget. But the AlphaBounce Beyond is a whole new level. The one shortcoming of the AlphaBounce was always aesthetics; it was often an overkill combination of textures, materials, and patterns. But the new AlphaBounce Beyond edits and elevates the look to the next level. The sole design fits seamlessly into the upper, each of them playing off the same textural motifs. An arch plug adds a little bit of surprise. The Beyond demands a few dollars more than its predecessor, but it also represents more than a couple extra steps in the right direction.
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.
Irony peaked with the "Weekend Campout" colorway of Nike's classic Air Monarch. The Monarch has earned its title of being the daddest dad shoe of them all, and sneaker collectors have laced them up ironically for years. But the Weekend Campout colorway brought the sneaker to the next level, offering an elevated version of the shoe. Doing so in limited numbers throttled supply and raised demand.
The past decade of sneaker culture has been all about making a statement, and we’re approaching the end of how much the community is willing to continue that trend. We’re nearing a future that demands subdued aesthetics, making the Mocha III release from Jordan Brand perfectly timed. The Jordan III will never go out of style, but the Mocha has often been forgotten—it’s just not a visually exciting sneaker. A white upper includes the traditional combination of smooth and tumbled leathers, with a heel wrap and details done up in brown. “Brown shoe” is typically code for dressier (or more boring) shoes, explaining why we rarely see the shade on sneakers, but with the culture moving back towards minimalist color schemes, now is the perfect time for the return of the Mochas.
Each year in sneaker hierarchy can be measured in technical innovation just as well as hype or style. This year, Jordan Brand applied Flyknit technology to the Air Jordan III, a move that required amazing dexterity and development when it comes to creating new textures from the material. The III is famous for combining smooth and tumbled leathers with the legendary elephant skin print. Jordan was able to get all those textures, and more, in 3D out of the Flyknit, making for a sneaker—and a process—that combines old and new.
The Skylon 2 is anything but new, yet we added it to this list because Nike brought it back at just the right time. The shoe is pure retro; Nike hasn't changed it a bit. That intensity of retro styling (everything from the synthetic suede to the color gradation on the quarter) might be too much for those who aren't hip to the trend. Or those who just don't want to remember the late '80s and early '90s when sneakers like the Skylon were the wave. But on the tail end of the retro runner craze, this was the right moment to dive deep into that nostalgia and bring the Skylon 2 right back to the forefront. Plus, the color combos are amazing.
Walking sandals must have enough adjustment points to keep your heel at the back of the sandal and prevent the foot "traveling" forward and back, rubbing against the straps with each step, which can lead to blisters. You must test sandals at an actual walking distance to see whether foot swelling during walking makes your toes bump against the toe guard, which can lead to black toenail or blisters, or just over the front edge.
A major skill of any holiday survivalist? Impeccable gifting. (And these must-have gifts & stocking stuffers are topping every wishlist.) Head to DSW this holiday season to find great gifts for those hard-to-shop-for people on your list (and of course, for yourself). Find shoes (and accessories) for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, those last-minute office parties, and so much more.