2018 has been a monumental year in terms of footwear. We’ve seen a whole load of new technology and models introduced, along with extremely coveted collaborations and huge growth of an already booming sneaker industry. In this article, I want to break down my ten favourite releases of the year, along with some honourable mentions. Bearing in mind I am a Nike guy so the list may be a little biased!
Also, huge shoutout to Dan Freebairn (@kickposters) for letting me use his illustration for the featured image of this article. Follow the link below to view his website and check out some of his other work!
10. Nike Air Skylon II
An unlikely contender for most people’s top ten but a certain for mine! The Skylon II originally came out in 1990 and was the first Nike model to feature heel and forefoot air in its foam midsole. This year was the first time the model has been retroed since its original debut and the timing couldn’t have been better (especially with the ‘retro runner’ trend at the moment). The vibrant colours used on the Skylon definitely make it a stand out! The two colourways featured above were my favourite from the year.
9. Adidas Yeezy 700 Wave Runner
I had to include one Adidas shoe on the list and it’s got to be this one. Probably the strongest model (IMO) in the Adidas Yeezy locker, the 700 wave runner. Despite technically dropping last year, in very limited numbers and exclusive to the US, the model saw a global release this year and made waves in the sneaker community. Kanye’s first 700 colourway has sold out instantly on every drop. I would love to get my hands on a pair but unfortunately, the retail price on this pair was pretty high – £250 I believe.
8. Air Jordan 4 ‘Cactus Jack
Travis Scott has had a huge impact on sneaker culture over the past two years or so. This is his third collaborative effort with the Swoosh, this time with Jordan Brand on the Jordan 4. The inspiration behind the colourway came from the jersey colours of Travis’ hometown basketball team, the Houston Oilers. These 4’s released just around the time Travis dropped his latest album ‘Astroworld’ and contributed to the hype of the album further. I was lucky enough to be gifted a pair for my birthday!
7. Nike Air Max Plus OG
The Air Max Plus (or TN’s) saw another retro in its OG colourways towards the end of the year. Even though this model has been re-released in its OG form a handful of times, this release was certainly an anticipated one amongst air max enthusiasts. Nike got this release spot on and the packaging was next level! The box design featured the pattern of the TN’s toe box all over it, and the shoes even came with autonomic arch supports! This addition is something we haven’t seen in Nike packaging since the early 2000s, mainly because they’re a bit outdated but it definitely helped regain that vintage feel. My favourite of the three colourways was the OG ‘Tiger’ pair.
6. Nike Air Max 98 ‘Gundam’
In 2017 we saw a variety of Air Max 97’s released in a range of OG and new colourways for the 20th Anniversary of the model. This got sneakerheads excited for this year as we hoped for the same on the Air Max 98. Nike did not disappoint. The first two colourways we saw this year were the ‘Tour Yellow’ and ‘Gundam’ 98’s, the best of the lot if you ask me. The ‘Gundam’ colourway takes the number six spot on the list. The OG colourway is the perfect combination of blue, red, white and black and is bound to turn some heads. I always love the OG’s and this one is on right at the top of my hit list.
5. Nike Air Max 1 ‘By Day’
I’ve already written about my love for this shoe in a previous article so I’ll keep this one brief! The Air Max 1 ‘By Day’ or the Pompidou Air Max 1’s released in September and was a relatively slept on drop in the grand scheme of things. The sneaker features coloured piping all around the white upper, reminiscent of that of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. I love that Nike has gone back to the routes of the Air Max and delivered a colourway in celebration of them. Click the image above to read my full article on Nike’s history with the Pompidou Centre.
4. Nike React Element 87 ‘Sail’
Nike made some serious headway in 2018 with retros, collaborations and entirely new models. This falls under the category of the latter. Nike React was a technology introduced to us through their running shoe the ‘Epic React’ and was seen as a counter to Adidas’ beloved ‘Boost’ technology. This is the first time the springy sole was utilised on a lifestyle shoe and was, and remains to be, extremely popular. The new model also features a semi-translucent upper. The ‘Sail’ colourway was the first of many to be debuted to the world, and in my opinion, the best of the bunch. The model’s popularity is reflected in its resale price, currently selling for roughly £330 (Stock X).
3. CDG x Nike Air Max 180
The Air Max 180 was seen a whole lot throughout 2018 in a variety of colours and makeups. One of the leading colourways was this 180 by Comme Des Garçons and Nike, a partnership spanning almost a decade. The sneaker was pushed into the eyes of the world at Paris Fashion Week for SS18 and made an immediate mark. Three colourways of the model were released, all with a bold pink foundation, but the black and pink version was my personal favourite.
2. Parra x Nike Air Max 1
Piet Parra and Nike join forces once again on the Air Max 1. This is the third time the pairing has worked on an Air Max 1 together (not including the Albert Heijn Air Max 1’s which were not released to the public), the first time in 2005, the second in 2009. A slightly different approach was taken on the 2018 collaboration; the shoe featuring colours and patterns in the style of Parra’s artwork. A Nike Air Zoom Spiridon was also released beside the Air Max 1, as well as a full tracksuit. The model flew off shelves and was very difficult to get hold of. This shoe (and the surrounding release) was executed perfectly to continue Piet Parra’s legacy with Nike.
1. Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 1/97
I really did not want to put this in first spot due to the number of these I have seen this year… and the fact I wasn’t able to grab a pair… but how could I not. The whole story behind these is enough to sell the shoe alone. The fact that Sean Wotherspoon, a vintage collector, curator and co-owner of Round Two was able to take part and win the Nike ‘Vote Forward’ Campaign is something you dream about. The drive behind his Air Max 1/97 hybrid got everyone talking and as a result was probably the most hyped release of the year. This has taken the number one spot on my list because of Sean’s backstory and the process of building the shoe surrounding the Air Max day campaign. The material and colour combination is entirely unique to a Nike model and the hybrid wave is back in full effect as a result. I have written a full-length article on this sneaker and its importance in today’s crep culture. To read it, click on the photo above.
So yeah Sean’s 1/97’s rank supreme in my eyes.
It was incredibly hard to narrow the list down to just ten pairs so it wouldn’t be right to do ‘the Best Sneakers of 2018’ without a few other mentions, worthy of the top few spots. So in no particular order:
Nike Tailwind 87:
Originally released in time for the Honolulu Marathon in 1986, the Tailwind changed the course of Nike footwear forever. The shoe was the first ever to feature the brands famous ‘Air’ cushioning in its sole. The model officially hit retailers the following year in 1979 and sold out straight away! In 2018 we saw a retro of the iconic model, in a colourway as close as possible to that released to the public in 1979. The shoes also came with a pair of white and blue Nike socks incorporating the vintage logo, a nice touch!
Skepta x Nike Air Max Deluxe
Finally, this year we saw retros of the Air Max Deluxe, a model not seen since 1999. The silhouette had a big year releasing in a variety of OG colourways as well as this collaboration with U.K. rap artist, Skepta. This was Skepta’s third collaboration with Nike and went hand in hand with his tour, ‘No Sleep on Tour’.
Supreme x Nike Zoom Streak Spectrum Plus
Supreme and Nike had probably one of their weakest years in terms of collaborative footwear. Out of a bad bunch, however, came these gems. The Streak Spectrum Plus’ debuted in 2003 and were designed for Japanese runners by Steven Smith. The most eye-catching feature is, of course, the flames, which run from the toe backwards. This design was inspired by the hot rod culture in the U.S. Before this collaboration, the model was pretty much forgotten, so it’s always good to see a banger like this make a comeback.
Diamond x Nike SB Dunk
Air Jordan 11 ‘Concord’
Around Christmas time every year, Jordan brand releases a Jordan 11 which used to cause havoc, with just about everyone trying to get their hands on whichever 11 was being brought out. In recent years the hype surrounding this seasonal release has not been what it once was. If there was a Jordan 11 which was going to change this, it’s this one. The Concord has been a classic since 1995 and certainly deserves a place on this list.
Air Jordan 1 x Union Los Angeles
The Jordan 1 had a huge year in 2018, with numerous colourways dropping and mass public appeal. These two pairs of Union Jordan 1’s were the best of the bunch in my opinion. Nowadays everyone is trying to get their hands on the original 1985 Jordan 1’s and this collaboration brought the OG’s to life in the present day. They are made to look old, with slight a discolouring to the midsole, laces and tongue. The yellow detailing around the panels certainly makes them a stand out amongst other Jordan 1’s and the mismatched upper is something we haven’t seen before on the model. I couldn’t make up my mind about which pair I preferred so they are both included!
Dragon Ball Z x Adidas Yung-1 ‘Frieza’
The Adidas Yung-1 has been one of Adidas’ most popular models this year and one of my personal favourites. This collaboration with Dragon Ball Z featured two models; the Yung-1 and the ZX-500, the first being the stronger of the two. The bold purple and pink detailing certainly make this sneaker stand out from the crowd. As well as this, the packaging was executed superbly, which always makes a big difference!
Daniel Arsham x Adidas 4D Futurecraft
Adidas’ 4D Future craft has got to be the most revolutionary innovations in footwear we have seen for quite some time. The technology is essentially, a 3D printed midsole on a running shoe. When we first heard of this project, people had a lot of questions. Will it even hold up? Is it comfortable? The answers are yes and yes. I have never tried on or even held a pair of these (due to their rarity and very high retail price), but have only heard good things. The reason these are included in this list is mainly due to the sheer technological advancements that have been made by Adidas and the possibilities this may lead towards in the future.
What do you think of my Top 10?
Let me know in the comments which you would or wouldn’t include! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more articles coming soon.