The year has been anything but typical thus far. If there’s any consistency to 2020, it’s been the fire sneaker releases.
We ranked and explained the top 25 sneaker releases from January to June. Each selection was made in with the lens of importance, colorway, storytelling, and more to create a holistic list.
Take a look at our rankings below. Did we miss any? Let us know your thoughts on social media.
Queen B has entered the sneaker space thanks to the Three Stripes. While the entire IVY PARK x adidas collection is noteworthy, there’s no better silhouette than the adidas Ultra Boost. The entire upper is coated in a deep burgundy as the fluorescent orange appears on the outsole for an eye-catching look. A toggle lace system and heel loop are additions to the silhouette for a more functional appeal. The IVY PARK x adidas Ultra Boost is (hopefully) the start of an ongoing partnership as more Beyoncé x adidas is on the way.
Nike gave the Nike LeBron 7 its rightful flowers in late 2019, and its retro run has entered into 2020. From the “Red Carpet” colorway to the once-player exclusive “Fairfax” iteration, the LeBron 7 is reminding the sneaker community about its undisputed run as one of LeBron’s best signature models.
LeBron James flexed the LeBron 7 in purple and gold as The King suited up for media day in 2019. The pair made headlines all over as the shoe encompassed a mismatched feel as one shoe was decked in yellow while the other and purple. The shoe’s rollout was set to coincide with the Lakers’ playoff run, but the season’s pause due to COVID-19 changed the script. Nonetheless, the Nike LeBron 7 “Media Day” sold out instantaneously. Hopefully, we get to see the pair in action in Orlando.
If you missed out, a Nike LeBron 8 “Lakers” is rumored to be in the works.
When it comes to fashion and sneaker appeal, Allen Iverson and the Reebok Question are at the top of the food chain. As the silhouette celebrates 25 years this fall, Reebok brought back a classic colorway for ‘Bok purists and AI fans.
The Reebok Question Low “Oatmeal” returned to the shelves as the colorway appeared for the first time since 1999. The low-top version of the iconic Question featured a primarily white upper with the light beige hue on the signature toe-cap, the heel, and other details such as the lace loops and the Reebok vector. The pair also features the unforgettable translucent outsole as the “Oatmeal” iteration is paired with an icy blue finish.
22. Air Jordan 4 Retro “Metallic” Pack
The Air Jordan 4 is revered as one of Tinker Hatfield’s best creations. The silhouette carried a larger heel tab than that of its predecessor in the Air Jordan 3. The upper features a netting and cage system for the utmost breathability for his Airness.
The Air Jordan 4 continues to dominate the charts despite a saturated sneaker ecosystem. The Air Jordan 4 “Metallic” pack went back into the Jordan archives as the red, orange, green, and purple drew parallels from the Air Jordan 1 metallic collection from 1986. While some of the colors differentiated from the OG AJ1s, the execution was the same: all-white upper with metallic hits.
The SNEEZE Magazine x Reebok Club C was highly anticipated from the jump. The collab combined two OGs of the game as the magazine provided its signature spin on the Reebok Club C. The collab blends minimalism and sneaker history all into one. The SNEEZE lettering came in its recognized bubble lettering with the black outline that stood tall on the white upper. A black inline and tongue also accompanied the pair for a classic finish.
The significance of the pair is deeper than the shoe itself. The magazine announced that 100% of the proceeds of the shoe from its website would be donated to #BlackLivesMatter.
As a reminder, there’s no sneaker culture without Black culture.
Jordan Brand first released its women’s specific sneaker in 1998 as it aligned with the introduction of the WNBA. However, the Air Jordan Women’s OG went dormant for years as the silhouette wasn’t heavily released after its debut. However, Melody Ehsani worked her magic on the silhouette in typical ME fashion concerning the OG while drawing a new sense of respect for the model and its importance in the game.
The Melody Ehsani x Air Jordan Women’s OG went stealth mode as the suede was dressed in black while a red bottom and inner tongue also made their way onto the shoe. A discreet hit of purple can also be found on the shoe. A cherry lace lock and reflective features across the silhouette only added to the collaboration’s worthiness.
The Aimé Leon Dore and New Balance relationship is elite. The ALD x New Balance releases have been nothing short of excellent as Teddy Santis tapped a vintage runner. The Aime Leon Dore x New Balance 827 came in three multi-color iterations. The “life in balance” mantra came to fruition as quality and minimalism blended perfectly on the trifecta.
18. Nike Air Max 90 “Duck Camo” Pack
The Nike Air Max 90 celebrates 30 years. What better way to celebrate three decades than a three-pack of heat? The Nike Air Max 90 “Duck Camo” collection drew on the classic atmos x Nike Air Max 90 collab from back in the day. While the Japan-based retailer had no direct influence on the pair, the similarity is there.
The collection arrived in red, green, and orange, with Air Max Day becoming the genesis for the rollout.
The Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG continues to dominate the game. The release of the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Court Purple 2.0” drew parallels from a 2018 version. However, the color blocking system adopted on this year’s release strikes similarities to the iconic “Chicago” colorway worn by the GOAT. The court purple has a stake within Jordan Brand for years, so it’s nice to see the color arrive on the legendary silhouette.
The Air Jordan 5 is also celebrating 30 years in the game. Tinker Hatfield’s third creation for his Airness made a significant leap from its predecessors. The silhouette adopted the netting on the upper as well as a black midsole. While its similarities are significant, the true beauty lies in what sets the AJ5 apart.
The Air Jordan 5 Retro “Fire Red” accentuates the key details like the metallic tongue with a red Jumpman. The red collar and inline provide the right amount of color to stray away from the white and black found on the rest of the shoe. In addition to that, a red shark tooth detailing inspired by a WWII P-51 Mustang fighter plane touches down on the pair as well.
The pair initially shocked dropped during “The Last Dance” docuseries before seeing a wider release.
Travis Scott x Nike Air Max 270 React ENG “Cactus Trails”
Colorway: Light Cream/Dark Hazel-Mica Green-Starfish
Style Code: CT2864-200
Release Date: May 5, 2020
Where to Buy: StockX // GOAT // eBay
Travis Scott’s most polarizing collaboration with the Swoosh released after constant release date modifications. As expected, La Flame channeled earthy tones with his wild, wild, west approach as the Travis Scott x Nike Air Max 270 React ENG “Cactus Trails” featured an aged look. Nike committed to the vintage aesthetic by releasing the Cactus Trails site with an archaic, e-commerce look book .
The collaboration also harnessed a DIY aspect as a Swoosh template and marker were added to add some flair to the pair.
The Air Jordan 13 Retro “Flint” made a return for the first time since 2010. Luckily, the colorway stayed true to the 2005 release as the reflective upper was embedded in the shoe’s DNA once more.
The shoe was worn by Kobe Bryant, Rip Hamilton, and Gilbert Arenas back in the day. While Jordan himself never wore the pair on the court, the colorway is at the top of the charts within the history of the Air Jordan 13.
Jerry Lorenzo and Nike came together and released one of the most sought-after silhouettes within the Nike Basketball chapter in years. The Nike Air Fear Of God 1 appeals to the hardwood with its lace structure and Air technology embedded into the sole. The truth of the matter is that you’ll see the pair on asphalt rather than the courts. We call that range.
Despite multiple colorways of the shoe thus far, the Nike Air Fear Of God 1 “Triple Black” is hands down the best one (so far). You can never go wrong with a triple-black sneaker. If you missed out on the original release, the pair is coming back this week.
Nike’s tradition of 4/20 themed sneakers continued this spring. The Nike SB Dunk High “Reverse Skunk” went on-brand as it gets as the pair was limited to 420 pairs. The colorway, as it suggests, flips the script on another weed-themed sneaker that captures the SB signature storytelling and craftsmanship known through the years.
While Nike SB Dunk Highs weren’t the silhouette of the year, the “Reverse Skunk” colorway is worth all the praise.
The adidas Yeezy Quantum finally made its debut after much anticipation. The newest model from Kanye West hit the streets of Chicago during ASW as tanks (yes, tanks), handed out pairs of the then-unreleased Yeezy. The shoe was worn during ASW by notable adidas Basketball athletes such as Zach LaVine and Brandom Ingram.
With the “Quantum” and “Barium” colorways under the silhouette’s belt, there’s more rumored to be on the horizon for the model. Will we see the shoe hit Orlando during the NBA’s restart? We hope so.
The Air Jordan 6 will always be attributed to Michael Jordan’s first NBA championship. Jordan Brand is readying for the shoe’s 30th anniversary. No better way to kick things off than a rerelease of the Air Jordan 6 “DMP” which caused hysteria at malls and boutiques back in the day. The silhouette was accompanied by the Air Jordan 11 “DMP” as the “Defining Moments Pack” celebrated the shoe worn by Jordan at the start of each three-peat championship run.
The shoe came similarly as the Air Jordan 6 “Infrared” which was worn by Jordan himself as he and the Chicago Bulls triumphed over the Lakers. The difference lies in the gold replacing where the infrared tones once stood. A dog tag dipped in gold was also added, much like the OG release of the DMP.
Hopefully, this means that the Air Jordan 11 “DMP” is coming soon.
The Nike SB Dunk Low “Safari” turns the clock back as the SB is a modern adaptation of the atmos x Nike Air Max 1 collab from 2003. The shoe bodes no differences as the safari printed overlays and earthy tones dress the rest of the shoe. A hint of green and a gum bottom pay the perfect tribute to the early-2000s classic.
Stussy x Nike Air Zoom Spiridon Cage 2 “Pure Platinum”
Colorway: Pure Platinum/Black-White
Style Code: CU1854-001
Release Date: April 4, 2020
Where to Buy: StockX // GOAT // eBay
Stussy isn’t afraid to dig within the Nike archives to cook up the perfect collaboration. The Stussy x Nike Air Zoom Spiridon Cage 2 is another extension of the partnership. The skateboard/streetwear label executed the collab perfect on the three colorways. While the “Fossil” pair is more sought-after, the simplicity brought two both colorways made it perfect for Nike and Stussy fans alike.
There’s no stopping Travis Scott and the Midas touch he possesses in the sneaker game. His collabs are instant-sell outs. His outfits and sneaker collection play a heavy hand in moving after-market prices.
While the SB Dunk line has always been a niche and poignant aspect of the sneaker world, the Houston-based rapper transcends though it all as his style reaffirms the old heads while putting the new generation of sneakerheads on to some game. Hate it or love it, Travis Scott is the most influential sneaker figure in the game.
The Travis Scott x Nike SB Dunk Low follows suit with La Flame’s Cactus Jack approach that combines western aesthetic with a twist. The shoe is well-crafted thanks to the rope-like laces, plaid patchwork, and earthy tones that come together on one of the most important silhouettes in sneaker history. Travis Scott and his shoes speak for themselves, but you simply can’t ignore the aurora that’s attached to him and his sneakers.
We’re going to keep it two Virgils here and give the OFF-WHITE x Air Jordan 5 its credit. Virgil Abloh is known for paying credit to Michael Jordan and his legacy within his Air Jordan 1 collaborations, primarily the OFF-WHITE x Air Jordan 1 “Chicago” colorway.
The OFF-WHITE x Air Jordan 5 draws inspiration from the OG Air Jordan 5 “Metallic” worn by the one and only. The colorway holds a special place in Abloh’s childhood, as it was the first Jordan he ever owned.
The shoe comes in a typical deconstructed fashion that Virgil has established within his creative space. A yellowed outsole is added to the zip-tie and “SHOELACES” branding.
5. Nike Dunk Low
The Nike Dunk Low has made a solid amount of noise this year. There are too many options to pick just one colorway, so we decided it’s best to group them all.
The Nike Dunk Low “Plum” came back from its early-2000s days. The “Syracuse” and “Kentucky” joints pay homage to the legendary Nike Dunk High “Be True To Your School” collection with an obvious collegiate connection. The “Brazil” colorway returned in OG fashion from its 2001 release.
Whether you copped one or all of these colorways, consider yourself in the elite category because all of these were hits.
Nike SB Dunks continue to be an important section of the sneaker community thanks to well-executed sneaker collaborations. The StrangeLove x Nike SB Dunk Low captures that very belief.
The California-based skate shop worked its magic in the silhouette. A completely velour-like upper in two tones of pink with a touch of red came together elegantly. The shoe also featured a translucent outsole with hearts at the bottom for some extra detail.
The Nike Air Jordan “New Beginnings” pack made history. The Nike Air Ship retroed for the first time. For those unfamiliar with the model, the Nike Air Ship was the predecessor to the Air Jordan 1. The Air Ship was the sneaker that the NBA “banned” because it violated uniform protocol at the time. The pack ironed out the narrative that the Air Jordan 1 was banned when, in reality, it was the Air Ship.
The pairs were engulfed by a massive box that had the respective years of both shoes labeled on top of the box. The release was also extremely limited as the shoe only sold in Chicago for All-Star Weekend with a price point of $350.
One can make the argument that the Air Ship was thrown in because it otherwise wouldn’t sell by itself as a retro. While the argument is valid, Nike releasing the Air Ship and properly telling the story of what happened during Jordan’s rookie campaign is extraordinarily significant and can’t be overlooked when analyzing the pack.
New Balance has been methodical about the reintroduction of the New Balance 992. The best New Balance 992 release, and arguably one of the best releases this year in general, was Joe Freshgoods and the New Balance collection.
The “No Emotions Are Emotions” capsule was two-fold. The moniker of the collection captured Kawhi Leonard’s personality. On the other side of the coin, Chicago’s own Joe Freshgoods brought his style and storytelling to the New Balance 992 as well as the garments in the collection. With ASW always being close to Valentine’s Day, JFG captured Kawhi and the timeline of the event as well.
When it comes to discussing the shoe, the release of the pair is noteworthy. The collection was an ASW-exclusive as Joe Freshgoods announced the location of the drop not too long before the drop. People flew from all over the country and camped out in the Windy City cold in February for a chance to get their hands on the collection, specifically the NB 992.
The release brought the best of both worlds. New Balance fanatics fell in love with the details of the sneaker. The Fat Tiger and Joe Freshgoods OGs had to represent what Chicago’s own brought to ASW.
The Ben & Jerry x Nike SB Dunk Low “Chunky Dunky” selection at number one for the year might not come as a surprise. The ice cream company came together with Nike SB and created a sweet Nike SB Dunk Low.
The storytelling is easily found all over the shoe: dripped Swoosh meant to emulate melting ice cream; cowhide as a connection to the dairy that goes into the ice cream; a colorful insole and features both the company logos. The shoe brings two companies together as a reminder that shoes are supposed to be fun (just don’t use them as an ice cream bowl).
The hype surrounding the pair is outrageous to the point that non-sneakerheads are aware of the shoe’s existence. That says a lot.