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.
Adidas is currently engaged in a global push to reduce its carbon footprint, and one of the more interesting ways the brand has approached the issue is to be hyper-local. The new AM4 program underscores the brand's abilities at the SpeedFactories, which are manufacturing centers that operate in each of the global markets. In 2018, Adidas has toured around to major cities releasing local versions of a new BOOST runner calibrated for the aesthetics of each city. The shoes may not be the most aesthetically appealing pairs, but they promise a new future of manufacturing and that's huge.
The sock runner trend, perfected by the Balenciaga Speed Trainer, hit its apogee with Reebok's Run.r. Like we said, Balenciaga perfected the look, but these Sock Run.rs are still amazing. The upper is about as simple a sock you can get, with some printing on the throat, but the sole is what's most interesting about the shoe. The seemingly multi-unit sole features what looks like a separated toe (it's connected to the rest of the sole under the sneaker), a taller section at the ball for stability, and a heel cup at the back. The look is intense but surprisingly well balanced.
LeBron James put his money where his mouth is for the latest incarnation of his namesake sneaker. Every year he gets the opportunity to start a massive conversation when he releases his latest shoe, and this year he released the very first LeBron 16 with a design by Harlem Fashion Row: a collective of female designers of color lead by Brandice Daniels. Undra Celeste, Kimberly Goldson and Fe Noel. They blended their styles and processes to create a sneaker that works no matter who is wearing it, but delivers a message that breaks barriers not only in opportunities for designers but also in expectations from consumers.
At first blush, the Travis Scott Air Force 1s with Nike don't seem like much. In fact, they might even seem familiar because the silhouette was introduced late last year. But if you take a closer look, you'll see how special this version actually is. The canvas-like upper lends itself beautifully to customization, something we've already seen work out gloriously. But the shoe goes even further. The unique piping all over the sneaker is colored 3M, and the swooshes are removable; each sneaker comes with a collection of different swooshes made from different materials that can be swapped out depending on your mood. These Travis Scott Air Force 1s end up representing our favorite kind of footwear—the kind where there's more than meets the eye and invites a personal touch.