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 Ten” Collection from Nike and Off-White that launched last year expanded in 2018, going way beyond the original list of 10 pairs. The first expansion was a European-only release of the remixed Air Jordan 1 done up in bright white from toe to heel. Plus, a couple hits of purple to make you feel like royalty. This was the original colorway Abloh designed for the 2017 collection, but the brands decided to stick with Chicago for the launch to classify the sneaker as an immediate success. It worked. The OG Chicago colorway and these white pairs continue to inspire thirst.
A sleeper hit, the LeBron 10 made in collaboration with John Elliott is pitch-perfect to Elliott’s aesthetic. The JE brand is known for taking daily staples and elevating them, and rather than purely elevating the LeBron 10, Elliott distilled the sneaker to its constituent parts, taking the shoe from an earlier era and bringing it into the present. After that work was done, he went about utilizing the panels and pieces in black and white to create depth and implicit texture. At a quick glance it may not appear that there’s much to these kicks, but there are layers to them and they deserve recognition.
The Yeezy brand has taken a status hit this year, with a dizzying amount of releases in super high volumes, fronted by Kanye—who has become an embattled figure in his own right. But in terms of aesthetics, the Mauve Yeezy Boost 700 represents a high watermark in design. The right tones of deep purple are on grand display thanks to the textural variations of leather and suede, and get just the right break from two hits of neon green. If you can separate style from politics, these are the best sneakers from Kanye and Adidas in years.
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.