On the final day of the year, we’re looking back at the best footwear releases of 2022. It was a year filled with impressive collaborations, powerful debuts, and several past-meets-present designs that captured public attention. On this list, you’ll find sneakers that told a story through their aesthetic beyond just being a hot colorway [sorry, Panda Dunks]. As always, we stand by our choices as a reflection of the present and future of sneaker culture and invite you to share your thoughts with us in the comments. Now with no more ado, here are the ten best sneakers of 2022.
While you could argue the Dunk Low was already overdone at the start of 2022, Union made a strong case for its longevity. Inspired by rare Dunks found by Union’s Chris Gibbs on travels in Japan in the early 200s, the Passport Pack brought an air of freshness to the silhouette. Additional inspiration comes from passports and government documentation from the cities Union calls home – Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo. Available in three stunning styles, the uppers features a tear-away, semi-translucent ripstop nylon covering.
9. Gucci x Adidas Gazelle
Released: June 7
It’s rare to see an adidas silhouette mentioned among the best sneakers of the year, but their collaboration with Gucci is well worth it. Gucci accentuated the Gazelle – a ’90s shoe with a ’70s flair to it – by driving home the intrinsic vintage aesthetic. Available in Gucci’s simple monogram print or a series of great ’70s-inspired colorways, adidas managed to successfully craft high-end footwear with the 3 Stripes. The Gazelle had always been a silhouette that paired well with high-fashion sportswear brands. These iterations perfectly convey the essence of one of the most legendary fashion houses.
8. Nike Kobe 6 Protro “Mambacita Sweet 16”
Released: May 1
The popularity of the Nike Kobe 6 as an on-court sneaker is evident on a nightly basis. It’s one of the most important Nike Basketball models of the past 20 years, though none tells a bigger story than the “Mambacita Sweet 16”. Surfacing months after Bryant’s Nike deal ended without renewal, many fans feared this shoe would never see the light of day. After Bryant’s estate reached a deal to renew his Nike partnership, the “Mambacita Sweet 16” arrived on what would have been Gigi’s 16th birthday. All proceeds went to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.
Following up on one of the most coveted sneaker collaborations of all time is certainly a tall undertaking, but Concepts pulled it off. The Lobster Dunk series first launched in 2008 with the original red iteration, later accompanied by blue, green, purple, and yellow colorways. This year saw the addition of the “Orange Lobster” to the collection – the first new installment in four years. Though Concepts botched the initial online drop, the crustacean-inspired Dunk Low proved to be as popular as ever. The sneakers look amazing – especially with the black toe box bands – easily making them the best Nike SB Dunk of the year.
6. Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 Low “Reverse Mocha”
Released: July 21
At this point, Travis Scott’s reliable formula – flip the Swoosh, dress the silhouette in brown or grey tones – feels a bit predictable. His Nike and Jordan collaborations are too big to fail, destined to sell out even if the final result is underwhelming. Still, this iteration of the Air Jordan 1 Low uses a mean, muted colorway to look effortlessly great as it remixes 2019’s ‘Mocha’ AJ1 Low.
5. Joe Freshgoods x New Balance 90/60 “Penny Cookie Pink”
Released: July 14
Chicago’s Joe Freshgoods has delivered a plethora of fantastic collaborations with New Balance, but this one felt particularly special. Part of the “Inside Voices” collection, the sneaker is inspired by shutting out the outside world and focusing on the warmth of community. As a result, the 9060 features pale peach and bright pink in a ventilated mesh upper with suede overlays and quilted lining. Hits of mint green adorn the ABZORB midsole, accompanied by a futuristic gum rubber pod on the heel.
Over the years, Virgil Abloh’s vision for the Nike Air Force 1 is realized across a plethora of designs. The release of this “Green Spark” variation of his leather-based Lows coincided with Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. The sneaker features minor alterations such as offset silver Swooshes and Abloh’s signature Helvetica typeface as part of a group of tonal Air Force 1’s exclusively for special events. Deciding where this pair ranks among Abloh’s similar Air Force 1 creations mostly depends on color preference, though it is without question one of 2022’s best sneakers. If you were able to cop these at the $160 retail price, consider yourself lucky – resale value currently averages $1,500.
Though technically not a sneaker, the 2022 footwear discussion would not be complete without mentioning the Salehe Bembury Crocs Pollex Clog collaborations. Described as an exploration of form and function, the design balances heritage with the most innovative mold in the industry. Dramatic concave ridges in the mold of Salehe’s signature fingerprints merged together allow for multi-directional traction. Salehe tapped into something special with these.
3. Tom Sachs x NikeCraft General Purpose Shoe
Released: June 10
It’s no secret – reinterpretations of popular retro designs dominate the current state of the sneaker industry. It’s truly a noteworthy accomplishment when a new silhouette can burst onto the scene as one of the most popular sneakers of the year. Such is the case for the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft General Purpose Shoe. The uppers bear a strong resemblance to the Nike Killshot, a tennis sneaker from the 1970s. However, the modern construction of the General Purpose Shoe and its utilitarian, semi-lugged outsole makes the sneaker exciting while still feeling familiar. An anti-hype-themed marketing campaign deliberately portrayed the shoe as boring – though the actual release was anything but. Despite multiple restocks – and one viral moment of the sneaker releasing at Kohl’s – the first colorway still averages over $300 for resale.
2. Air Jordan 1 High OG “Lost and Found”
Release Date: November 19
Few sneakers can manage the impressive feat of catering to both the OGs sneakerheads and teenagers new to the game. Enter the Air Jordan 1 High OG “Lost and Found”. This updated take on the classic “Chicago” 1 adds vintage-inspired details including a cracked leather collar and yellow-tinted midsole. Additionally, the storytelling extends to the packaging, which features a mismatched box and faux receipt from an old mom-and-pop store. Minor details like these add to the feeling that you’ve dug these out of an old storage unit without feeling too cheesy. For all the Air Jordan 1s that have come to exist, the “Lost and Found” proves that sometimes going back to basics gives the best results.
In many ways, the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 is a dream come true. The sneaker is inspired by the bootleg designs of Dapper Dan, whose Harlem boutique sold sports footwear fit with logos and prints from luxury houses, as well as the new millennium trend of plastering designer prints over the Swooshes of white or black Air Force 1s. Throughout his career, Virgil Abloh’s work broke down the barrier between streetwear and luxury fashion, and this sneaker perfectly captures that essence. Bringing together Nike and Louis Vuitton, Abloh outfits the iconic Air Force 1 with monogram logos to reference the bootleg styles of decades past.
Though the exclusivity of the sneaker can hurt its reception, no sneaker was more attentive, deliberate, and overdue than the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1. Additionally, the sneakers raised over $25 million for the late designer’s “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund thanks to a Sotheby’s auction. With little to no surprise, Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 Low is the sneaker of the year.