Whether you’re into classics or high performance runners, we lay down our pick of the best kicks around
Performance footwear is future-focused, designed for athletes to deliver in a sporting environment. Contemporary footwear, meanwhile, showcases the best technology that each brand has developed.
But for a trainer to be a success, it needs crossover appeal to work for both sport and the street, and often this crossover takes time, or a tipping point. Take the adidas Ultraboost, launched in 2015 by the German sportswear giant and billed as the ‘greatest running shoe ever made’. It was an immediate smash hit with athletes.
East African marathon men would score podium finishes in the Boosts, generating a perception that they were merely technical shoes; closer to the kind of thing a geography teacher wears on non-uniform day than a stylish sneaker. Then Kanye West wore an all-white pair at Glastonbury 2015, and they sold out within days. Footwear’s a fickle business. It is the crossover model that put adidas firmly back on the style map.
The Jordan Horizon hits the bliss point midway between fashion and function. Of the major brands, Nike is probably the most established style-wise. It’s currently blending its new technologies like Flyknit with a variety of existing soles. And it’s devoting energy to developing far more conceptual models like the Thermal model and the self-lacing model it demonstrated earlier this year at its annual innovations conference. Both of them look like they just arrived from the year 2160.
Now, Under Armour is clamouring for a similar appeal. It paid big bucks to land Golden State Warriors’ sharpshooting point guard Steph Curry. Realising that very few pairs of Nikes or Jordans that are scanned at a till ever set foot on a basketball court, Under Armour wants some of basketball’s street credibility. It might seem like a long shot, but with the super limited-edition Curry 2.5, we think UA is getting close to landing on the money.
Under Armour Curry 2.5
Under Armour poached Steph Curry from Nike, and it proved a masterstroke; during Curry’s first season with the brand, he won MVP, and the 2015 NBA Championships. Under Armour’s basketball shoe sales increased 754%.
Nike Flyknit Free Mercurial
Concepts x Nike Free Trainer 1.0 “Thermal”
Nike Sock Dart
The Sock Dart was way ahead of its time. It snuck out largely unnoticed in 2004, but has been consistently reissued over the past two years. The thin lightweight upper and flexible sole make it a perfect summer shoe, while the silicone strap is so future.
adidas Yeezy boost 750
£150 adidas at Flannels
adidas nmd- r1
After a decade of Nike dominance, the nmd felt like adidas’ comeback shoe. Teased with a huge international campaign and launch events across major cities, it’s a welcome return to form for the three stripe brand.
Nike Air Presto Ultra Flyknit
£94.99 nike at Flannels
Pretty much every trainer in this list was cutting edge once. Even Converse All Stars were vanguard performance shoes in their day. The Cortez was an early Nike that had its revival moment when Tom Hanks grew a hobo beard and ran across America in Forrest Gump wearing a pair. The Vans Sk-8 high is a skate classic embraced by a generation of rappers like Tyler, The Creator. But increasingly the brands are reissuing models from the more recent years. The Pegasus 92, Asics Gel Lyte V and adidas EQT were all runners from early ’90s. The EQT, in particular, revives the obsession of gait style that was prominent during the period – it’s the time when adidas started experimenting with models specifically designed for pronators, supinators and neutral striking patterns.
By the millennium, pretty garish futurism dominated the market, then the internet grew big time and kickstarted the revival trend which brought a fleet of ’70s and ’80s trainers back into fashion. And now it’s gone full circle; stuff like the Sock Dart (2004) is back, available this time on wider release, and far more people are wearing it. More people are attempting to pull off the Reebok Instapump Fury too – though if you try to rock it, you’re braver than us.
The adidas Climacool was another early 2000s classic, and fortunately it’s aged better than some of its contemporaries (eg Nike Shox) and made its long overdue return.
Oh, and all red shoes are suddenly really hype – that’s happened, too.
adidas Climacool 1
£109.95 Concept by cruise
Converse All Star
£36 concept by cruise
£61.99 Concept by cruise
Futurism isn’t just about silhouettes and models, but also fabrics and construction techniques. Increasingly, brands are remaking classic models using modern tech. The Stan Smiths are a tennis classic, and they’ve been reintroduced in lightweight, one-piece Prime Knit.
Adidas Originals’ subdivision was first conceived for heritage models – a channel for releasing Trefoil models in the era of the three white stripes – but this year, the lines have blurred. The NMD, the first brand new trainer ever released in limited numbers under the Originals banner, had the hype brigade queueing round the block, and of course, had resellers making serious money through eBay and Instagram.
Nike Air Presto was first released in 1998, but was discontinued after a few years because the brand lacked the technology to fully develop the initial prototype. Around the start of the 2010s, using improved production techniques, Nike began working on the Flyknit, and view the Presto as the prototype for the super-flexible, lightweight shoe. It also unveiled the Magista, a football boot released for the 2014 World Cup – the first mainstream football boot to extend up the ankle. In the Presto Flyknit, Nike cross-pollinate all three ideas to create a model celebrating new and old.
The Air Max One, first released in 1987, was a smash hit with athletes, and has been revisited time and again by Nike. This year, they treated the Air Max One to the freshest, most luxury reissues ever, in seamless suede and leather. It’s an acknowledgment that the model’s days in the sports field are over, but that they can be developed in new and interesting directions for the street.
The reissue market is huge business, but rather than simply pushing the same models into the market and tweaking the colourway, brands are increasingly interested in exploring new ways to hit their audience.
asics Gel Lyte V
Released: 1993 Reissue
£90 asics at schuh
adidas Originals Tubular Nova
£155 Concept by Cruise
Supreme x NikeLab Air Max 98
Reebok Instapump Fury
adidas originals Stan Smith Prime Knit and OG Prime Knit
Former men’s tennis number one Stan Smith won Wimbledon in 1972 and retired in 1985. His signature shoe has since become a footwear classic, and adidas continue to reissue and reinvent the model, this time with a one-piece Prime Knit upper.
Both £79.95 adidas
adidas Originals Stan Smith Leather Sock
While the Prime Knit model pairs the classic with the techn ical, the ‘Leasock’ is the more luxury alternative. The Stan Smith has never been far from fashion, but over the past years, it’s been everywhere again.
adidas originals EQT 3/3 F15
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus ’92
Released: 2016 Reissue
NikeLab Air Max 1 Royal
£190 nike at footpatrol
Photos: Matthew Beedle