Beauty is the eye of the beholder as they say, but sometimes the beholder is downright wrong. There are some sneakers out there that simply never should have made it on to shelves, let alone past the brainstorming stage. From platform Crocs to shoes inspired by the human tongue, here are 13 of the most horrifying sneaker designs of all time!
adidas Kobe 2
The Kobe 2 is an acquired taste, there’s no doubt about that. There’s one rule to abide by when creating a signature shoe for an athlete however – make sure they actually like the damn thing! Rumour has it that even Kobe failed to see the beauty in these bulky moon boots, considering them just as ugly as the general public did. Supposedly, this is the reason why Kobe switched back to his earlier signature shoe, The Kobe, for the 2001 NBA Finals. The extra salty sneakerheads out there go as far as to say that Kobe jumped ship to Nike just to get away from this horror.
Nike Air Force 1 'Invisible Woman'
Released in the mid-2000s as part of a Fantastic Four-inspired collection of sneakers, these clear-toed Air Force 1s were based on the Invisible Woman. In order to mimic her superpower, Nike equipped the shoes with a clear plastic toe box, causing the shoe to fog up with wear. Nike has tried to bring back this feature on a number of occasions, but to that we say, 'Nobody wants to see your steamy toes!'
Nike Air Max A Lot 'Rasta'
Nike's Air More Uptempo is one of the hottest retro sneakers on the market at present, but the same can't be said for its hybrid brethren, the Air Max A Lot. This fusion of the Uptempo and Air Pippen II saw a number of adequate – but forgettable – releases in 2010, but none stood out more than the make-up above. Its Rasta-inspired colour scheme, with a yellow-to-green gradient midsole, and its gratuitous use of patent leather was enough to have sneakerheads crying 'Fake!' at first sight. If that's not enough, the sneaker's shape alone was enough to have us pondering 'what would it look like if a sneaker and cowboy boot were to procreate?'
Jeremy Scott x adidas Originals Mega Softcell Cowboy Boot
In response to the question above, the answer is 'we wish we didn't know.' Unfortunately, thanks to Jeremy Scott, we do. The Moschino creative designer made this ill-conceived pairing a reality in 2012 with the release of the Mega Softcell Cowboy Boot as part of his extensive series of collaborations with adidas Originals. Scott's bold creations aren’t for everybody, but this one is for nobody.,
Balenciaga x Crocs Foam
Update: it turns out this Crocs colab was very much indeed one big clog that actually released, and now commands big bucks on the secondary market. Yep.
Not due to hit stores until spring 2018, we seriously hope this collaboration between Crocs and Spanish fashion house Balenciaga turns out to be one big and extremely belated April Fools' joke!
AND1 Chosen One
Speaking of Crocs, was AND1's Chosen One supposed to look like a pair of the brand's infamous Clogs on court?
There is no denying this is one seriously hideous pair of kicks – and yet they were a sales marvel thanks to Kim Kardashian touting their butt–building capabilities. Puh-lease. Though once SKECHERS were forced to reveal that the claims were unfounded and it was discovered that the shoes actually caused back injuries consumers returned these hideous stompers in droves – but, not before claiming their share of the $40 million class-action lawsuit. Ouch!
Famously featured in the Seinfeld episode The Jimmy, Strength Shoes are a very real creation. Similar to Shape-Ups, these sneakers promised significant muscle toning with every step, promising to reward wearers with bulging calf muscles. Also like Shape-Ups, Strength Shoes came under criticism for unsubstantiated claims put out by the manufacturer itself. Independent testing proved that the shoes produced some (minor) improvement; it came at the risk of potential muscle injury if worn without professional supervision. Count us out!
Air Jordan 15
Sneakerheads constantly argue as to what is the greatest Jordan of all time, but when it comes to the ugliest there is almost unanimous consensus: the Air Jordan 15. Featuring a tongue literally inspired by Michael Jordan’s tongue (no, seriously), this was a straight up case of TMI. The first shoe to release in Jordan’s Bulls retirement, some joke that Jordan quit playing just so he wouldn’t have to wear these on court!
Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the AJ15 marks a sore spot on an otherwise flawless legacy. Fortunately Hatfield was given a ‘do-over,' with the chance to redesign his self-proclaimed least favourite Jordan in 2016 with the Laika x Air Jordan 15 'Kubo' in 2016 – a huge improvement on the original!
Big Baller Brand ZO2 Prime
The most controversial shoe of 2017 without question. Big Baller Brand's debut sneaker design, the ZO2 Prime, was greeted with ridicule upon its reveal. Lambasted heavily online – with particularly vicious commenters claiming they made the Curry Two Low look good (eep!) – Big Baller Brand ended up scrapping the design before release and cancelling all orders. If that's not an indication of one ugly looking shoe, we don't know what is!
Jordan Dub Zero 'SpongeBob' (Counterfeit)
Hybrids conjure mixed responses in the sneaker scene. Some love the fact they can wear a single pair of shoes made up of multiple legendary silhouettes, while others loathe them. One thing’s for sure: these ‘SpongeBob’ Jordan Dub Zeros are absolutely hideous. A common indicator of fake online retailers in the late 2000s, those who unwisely purchased a pair were left mortified when they busted out their new purchase only to be clowned by every sneakerhead in a 100 mile radius.
Golden Goose Distressed Superstar
Admittedly these aren’t the worst sneakers we’ve seen, but the $585 price tag for these pre-distressed sneakers is enough to cause a heart attack! Yuck.
Reebok Ice Creams
Anyone born in the last 10 years, look away! Long before he would go on to collaborate with the likes of Chanel (hyperlink), Pharrell Williams linked up with Reebok to unleash the Ice Cream on the world. Available in a selection of garish all-over prints and eye-searing colourways (and occasionally both if you were lucky!), the Ice Cream is better left in the 2000s along with shutter shades and ghost-riding the whip.
Bonus Entry: Adam Brandejs’ Animatronic Flesh Shoe
If you don't yet feel horrified, this should do the trick. In fact, this so-called ‘Animatronic Flesh Shoe’ from artist Adam Brandejs will give you nightmares. Created using latex models taken from Brandejs’ own skin, with hair added for extra realism, this ‘shoe’ is even more disturbing in real life with its internal motors to twitch and pulse as if it is actually alive. Uhhh, gross.