If 2018 represented the transition from bold design to subtlety, few projects straddle that change as well as the Paris Saint-Germain collaboration with Air Jordan. The partnership resulted in two pairs: a Jordan V and a Jordan 1, but we're only including the V on this list because it's the one that did the most. At first blush, the shoe doesn't look so different from the classic Black/Metallic colorway, just rendered even darker. The tongue and quarter have been transitioned from grey to black, and an inclusion of "75" is embroidered at the heel. The shifts are subtle enough that the shoes catch the attention of older sneaker heads, but have the added hype details to make the younger generation take notice. This is what we're looking forward to in the future of sneaker collaborations.
Flips: If lying low is the goal, a standard pair of flip flops, or thongs, can’t be beat. A pair slips on and off in seconds, packs easy and weighs little. In terms of comfort, leather flips are tough to beat after some breaking in but they can become slick when wet. Rubber top soles don’t compare comfort-wise, but are more utilitarian.
Kendrick Lamar moving from Reebok to Nike was a natural because Nike gave him the Cortez, and nary has a combination of sneaker and artist felt more seamless. Kendrick used the opportunity to put out a series of colorways inspired by his music and evolving identity, offering a range of aesthetics. The Cortez Kenny III is the best one yet. Black, white, and red play off classic sneaker colorways, but Lamar injected the sneakers with details like Chinese characters embroidered into the toe and "BET IT BACK" printed on the tongue ribbon. It's a brilliant pairing.
Hiking, River, and Surfing Sandals: If you’ll be playing in the mud and muck, look for a sole made of hard rubber compounds. Choose sandals with a deep tread, which will serve you well when you’re going up the face of a steep mountain or balancing precariously on wet river rocks. The upper portion of your sandal, including any straps, should be made of breathable and durable material such as nylon webbing or polyurethane. For the top sole, memory foam allows for supportive cushioning and comfortable wear. Moreover, these materials are water-resistant, whichmeans they won’t become saturated when you stomp through a creek and won’t rot away after a few wet wears.
Adidas has proven to be an innovator in sole technology, and few pairs show that off more explicitly than the new Sobakov. Inspired by the three stripe’s tradition of soccer sneakers, the Sobakov utilizes a bold sole that is as practical as it is sculptural. Each of the deep ridges spins all over the sole, offering grip and traction, while also creating a really dope look. Add to that the knit upper designed to have the same depth and darkness as suede, and the Sobakov offers a pitch perfect balance between retro inspiration and new traditions.
Outer Sole: Specialized rubber manufacturers like Vibram offer durable treads for hiking and portaging over rough terrain. Stealth Rubber, featured in Five Ten climbing shoes and Astral river shoes, is designed to stick to rocks to keep you on your feet in the current. You can spend days researching rubbers but at the end of the day, reputable brands use excellent proprietary sole materials.
It was only two years ago that Acronym released its first Presto with Nike, even though it feels like a generation ago in terms of sneaker releases. Predating the Off-White collection, the remix that Acronym brought to the Presto was a big surprise—at that point Nike very rarely let collaborators edit its silhouettes. It was a shot across the bow for traditionalists, and caused a well-deserved fervor. This year they followed up the partnership with a trio of Prestos that played with pattern as much as texture, and color as much as expectations. We don't think the 2018 pairs quite live up to the 2016 pairs, but they're still a welcome addition to 2018's list.
We know there are a lot of Jordan IIIs on this list (It makes sense; it is one of the very best basketball sneakers of all time.), but these "International Flight" Jordan IIIs are amazing and worthy of attention. They're not doing anything crazy—on the contrary, it's a colorway that seems like it should have released years ago. What's surprising about this sneaker is the off-white leather that dominates the upper. Jordan Brand is known for its combinations of white, black, red, and blue, so these more subtler tones add a sort of aged quality to the look in a way that's more than welcome. These are by no means classics, but they deserve recognition.
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.
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.