2022 was filled with a plethora of stories and noteworthy releases. From the Kanye West and adidas breakup to RTFKT x Nike merging the physical world with digital, this year was anything but short of headlines.
As always, brands made sure to bring new heat to the game through in-line releases, collaborations, and even new silhouettes. With an eventful year coming to an end, we list out the 10 best sneakers of the year.
Take a look at this year’s list, in chronological release order, below.
Despite the “Panda” Dunk Low releasing in early 2021, its multitude of restocks and overall popularity took off in 2022.
It’s rare that a shoe’s demand & accessibility stretches across generations and demographics — especially for a Nike Dunk. From LeBron James wearing the “Panda” to middle schoolers, the “Panda”-monium & the shoe’s overall versatility deems the “Panda” worthy of making it in this year’s sneakers of the year list.
Say what you want about the memes and the shoe’s simplicity, but the versatility and visibility crown the Nike Dunk Low “Panda” as the people’s shoe.
In the last few years, sneakers and high fashion have gone to new heights. From sacai to AMBUSH and most memorably the Dior x Air Jordan 1, high-end sneaker collaborations have been a point of emphasis for brands and luxury fashion houses as well.
For years, the Louis Vuitton monogram has appeared across multiple silhouettes through sneaker customizers and one-off Bespoke iterations. It wasn’t until Virgil Abloh took the reigns at LV to bring Louis Vuitton and Nike, specifically the Air Force 1, together.
While each colorway within the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 collection has its own merit (including unreleased Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1s seen at Art Basel), it’s hard to make an argument of one greater than the monogram pair. From its packaging with the LV embossed pilot case to the shoe’s auction that stretched across two weeks with proceeds going to Abloh’s POST-MODERN scholarship, the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 will be immortalized in history whether sneakers, luxury, or fashion — much like Virgil Abloh himself.
The return of the New Balance 550 added new energy to the Boston-based brand. Since its return, the low-top sneaker has garnered the attention of many whether sneaker fans, basketball historians, or fans of New Balance’s A-list collaborators from size? to Aimé Leon Dore and COMME des GARÇONS, among others.
Despite a plethora of colorways, there’s one New Balance 550 in particular that set a precedent for storytelling and design — not just within the brand but in the industry as a whole.
In February, New Balance appointed Joe Freshgoods as Creative Director for the brand’s “Conversation Amongst Us” line. Rather than just becoming a collaboration, JFG would create footwear and apparel within the brand’s list of in-line products. In addition to the role, the “Conversations Amongst Us” line continued JFG’s ethos and dedication to Black storytelling as Chicago’s own organized an all-Black product team at New Balance known as the BlackSoles with Associate Product Managers and Designers from the team, including but not limited to, Jordan Johnson and Kevin Trotman. The collection also included the New Balance 2002R, the New Balance KAWHI 2, and the New Balance 574.
The significance of the New Balance 550 “Conversations Amongst Us” stretches beyond resell value and overall demand. And even though it’s not a collaboration, JFG’s Midas touch is still present in the collection and the campaign’s rollout, which featured Kawhi Leonard and pays tribute to “the nod” — a gesture encapsulating how Black men have communicated with one another for generations.
In 2021, following a handful of Nike Zoom Kobe 5 Protro releases, Nike and Kobe Bryant’s estate did not renew the contract, ending the partnership for the time being. Vanessa Bryant, who was vocal about the Nike Kobe line in the last few years, often voiced her frustrations about the lack of access the signature line had for fans. In addition to that, what would become the “Mambacita Sweet 16” colorway was seen on the NBA court and on Instagram pages of sneaker leakers, with the pair’s existence & distribution unknown to Vanessa.
Upon the partnership’s renewal, Vanessa made it clear that more Kobes would be on the way. A month later, the commemorative Nike Zoom Kobe 6 Protro “Mambacita Sweet 16” colorway was available on SNKRS on what would’ve been Gigi Bryant’s sixteenth birthday with all proceeds going to the Mambacita Foundation, built to push the women’s game forward.
The “Mambacita Sweet 16” went from a frustrating moment in the Nike Kobe line saga to one of the most cherished and significant colorways after Kobe’s passing.
More is expected of the Nike Kobe line with the Kobe 8 Protro releasing in 2023.
Hidden.NY x Salomon XT-4
Gorpcore took over streetwear and sneakers in 2023. While each brand has done their own spin on the utilitarian style, no brand has capitalized on the momentum more than Salomon. The French sports equipment brand has become a fan favorite with its silhouette — both fashionable & functional.
The year was filled with noteworthy Salomon drops, but it’s hard to top the Hidden.NY x Salomon XT-4. Hidden.NY, the archival Instagram page that has captured the je ne sais quoi intersection of nostalgia, culture, music, and more, broke the conventional collaborator mold by teaming up with the brand.
Hidden.NY’s signature green emblem lands on the heel counter of the shoe while sail, brown, green, and black add an earthly look that captures the essence of the gorp world with Hidden.NY’s simple yet effective storytelling.
Though we’ll see more of Salomon in the years to come, the significance of an Instagram page headlining a collaboration shouldn’t go unnoticed and deserves the recognition. Not just because of the execution of the collaboration but the success of Hidden.NY and the role they play in culture.
The Tom Sachs and Nike partnership has delivered hits and grail-worthy sneakers through the NikeCraft line. From the Mars Yard to the Mars Yard Overshoe, Sachs’ approach to practicality with elevated materials and intention designing has amassed an attraction that very few have.
However, the accessibility of the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft collections has made it hard for the general population to experience and partake in. With the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft General Purpose Shoe, the two parties made it a priority to ensure that the GPS could be readily available while not compromising on the NikeCraft ethos of quality not function.
Not only did Tom Sachs vocalize that more restocks were on the way, Nike’s approach to releasing the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft General Purpose Shoe at Kohl’s locations across the country further emphasized the commitment to making a high-level collaboration available to be worn, purchased, and experienced by many.
In addition to the rollout, the shoe’s overall simple design with suede, ventilated mesh upper, EVA midsole, and a rugged outsole with the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft signature pull tabs added up to one of the year’s best releases from design, to rollout, and storytelling.
Much like the “Panda” Dunk, Salehe Bembury & his Crocs catalog kicked off in 2021 with the “Cucumber” colorway. However, its effects & popularity dominated throughout 2022 with the “Sasquatch” colorway rounding out the year for the partnership.
The Salehe x Crocs partnership was the perfect marriage at the right time. With comfort being king in the pandemic, Bembury’s outdoor & nature-centered ethos aligned well with Crocs. For the first time in Crocs’ 20-year existence, a completely new mold was introduced thanks to Bembury & his pioneer nature.
The new mold provided a fresh take on the classic Clog allowing Bembury fans, sneakerheads, hypebeasts, and overall footwear enthusiasts to embrace Crocs on an entirely new level.
The Air Jordan 1 has become a relic within sneaker history, fashion, and culture as a whole. The mid-80s silhouette worn by the one and only Michael Jordan. Though each OG Air Jordan 1 holds their own significance, it’s tough to argue one more important than the Air Jordan 1 High “Chicago” colorway.
Rather than bringing back the OG in a 1:1 fashion, Jordan Brand provided a new take on the classic with the “Lost and Found” story. Inspired by warehouse digging in mom-and-pop shops back in the day, the Air Jordan 1 High OG “Lost and Found” featured an aged look with cracked leather on the upper and collar, a sail midsole, and new packaging with a mismatched lid and aged effect with an old receipt tying the colorway back to the storage-digging story.
A 1:1 retro of the “Chicago” would’ve been easy (and arguably lazy by the brand). With a new story and new materials for the “Chicago” colorway, the legacy of the colorway, and the Air Jordan 1 continues to grow for a new generation and age of sneakerheads.
James Whitner and A Ma Maniére have yet to miss through their partnership with Jordan Brand. Following the A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 3, A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 1 High OG, and the A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 2, the retailer and the Jumpman elevated the Air Jordan 4 with the brand’s signature high-quality.
The quilted liner, premium nubuck, sail midsole, and special packaging took the silhouette to new heights.
Additionally, the rollout and editorial of the AMM x AJ4 continued A Ma Maniére’s Black & Brown-focused storytelling with the “It’s not about the shoes..it’s about where you’re going” printed on the inside of the heel tabs.
A Ma Maniére also took it upon themselves to use the release as a call to action. In addition to the regular release, AMM leaned on the community and civic engagement to post a video as to what they’re voting for as the release was around the 2022 Midterm Elections.
We have always stated that what we do is about more th
an sneakers. On the eve of the election, while we have the anticipation and attention of the world on our next Jordan Brand project, it’s our responsibility to use our platform to ensure people – especially young people – show up to the polls and use their voice, use their vote and ask for the country to reflect their values.
This project was founded on the promise of the future generations and their potential to change the world. This is a moment we can’t ignore, this is about where we’re going and the state of the world.
So while we have your attention – please vote, help someone get to the polls, volunteer in your community and speak up about the issues that are top of mind for you. The future belongs to you – take action.James Whitner
For the entry, the boutique asked members of the community to share a video on Instagram or Twitter speaking about the current social issues that are most important to them; @ their preferred The Whitaker Group social channel and their local representative and/or local/regional/national media outlet; and use the hashtag #myvoiceholdspower for their video to be reviewed.
As expected Whitner, A Ma Maniére, and Jordan Brand delivered one of the year’s best sneakers from design to storytelling and details.
In 2018, rumor had it that the Swoosh gifted the late Sandy Bodecker, the Nike SB forefather, a pair as he retired from Nike that summer. In actuality, Bodecker was the charity winner and kept his pair in pristine condition, indicating that his pair (the auction pair) and the cut-up sample were the only two in existence.
Nearly 20 years after the shoe’s emergence, Nike SB and eBay rejoined to honor Sandy Bodecker with a cut-up version of the eBay x Nike SB Dunk Low — inspired by the chopped-up sample.
In addition to the return of the collaboration, eBay and Nike SB dedicated an entire rollout and campaign tying the shoe’s original story back to the modern version. An insole graphic with Sandy & his son; P-Rod, Eric Koston, & Elissa Steamer in the eBay auction announcement; to the $355,000 raised through the eBay-exclusive auction with special packaging, the collaborative Dunk lived up to its name and homage from ideation to final execution.