What We See Happening in Sneakers Over the Second Half of 2022
It's just past the halfway mark of 2022, and now that we've given you the biggest stories, best colabs, hottest topics, most surprising silhouettes and our personal favourite shoes of the year so far, we're ready to take a look into our fingerprint-smudged crystal ball and see what's in store for the world of sneakers in the second half of the year. Predictions, especially in an industry as fast-changing as sneakers, can be a tall task – but we've got a few hunches and we've been right more than a few times over the last two decades!
Without further ado, here are five things we'll be seeing plenty of over the next six months. Future forward!
Yesterday's Price ... Is NOT Today's Price!
Per a report from the Pew Research Centre, a globally-respected nonpartisan think tank, 44 countries with 'advanced economies' had an inflation rate in the first quarter of 2022 that was at least twice what it was in the first quarter of 2020. In 16 of those countries, the rate was more than four times what it was in 2020. The inflation rate in the US is higher than it's been since 1981, and consumers around the globe are feelin' the pain – at the gas pump, at the grocery store and at the sneaker shop.
Sneaker prices have crept up gradually for decades, of course. A famous example would be New Balance's seminal 990 – when it was released in 1982, it was priced at a then-astronomical $100. You can hardly get a decent pair of casual shoes for that price today, much less a top-of-the-line runner! Jordan Brand prices have been creeping up as well. Before the 'Remastered' initiative was introduced in 2015, most Air Jordans were $160. 'Remastered' pairs were knocked up to $190, and now they're priced at $200, while Air Jordan 1s have gone from $130 to $180 in less than a decade.
Some inflation is unavoidable, but the scale and scope of this inflation makes being a sneakerhead more expensive than ever before – and with the turbulent global climate, the prices aren't going to be cooling off anytime soon. Get ready for more sticker shock over the next six months!
Tonnes of 3D Printing
Sustainability takes many forms in the sneaker world. The Yeezy line's ever-popular Foam Runner is made of algae foam. adidas has long pushed the envelope with initiatives like their fully recyclable FUTURECRAFT.LOOP shoes, and introduced an environmentally conscious element into many of their mainline drops with PRIMEGREEN material and Parley's recycled ocean plastic. Nike's Move to Zero initiative aims to reduce the impact of everything from factory processes to material choices. However, one future-forward form of shoemaking is looking to gain traction in the second half of 2021 and beyond: 3D printing.
A process that is free of stitching and glueing and often fully circular, 3D printing uses significantly less material to make footwear than most standard factory methods for one simple reason – namely that 3D-printed shoes don't require bonding agents to hold them together. Besides the sustainability aspect, 3D printed shoes can be customised on a macro level by just a few keystrokes, adjusting their fit and feel without extensive prototyping. It's fast, efficient and futuristic, and we'll likely see a hell of a lot more of it before the year is out!
Where the 3D printing mentioned above is a very real, tangible thing, there's another driving force in the world of sneakers that can't be held or felt – but can definitely be seen. That's the metaverse, a (supposedly) lush digital world that sneaker brands are falling all over themselves to enter. Maybe they need to tie their digital laces a few pixels tighter!
Digital lace puns aside, sneaker brands like Nike and adidas view the metaverse and NFTs as the next frontier of consumer interaction, which is why they're snapping up or partnering with NFT design studios, adding branded experiences into popular virtual realms, creating entirely new in-company divisions and fiercely litigating anyone who tries to steal their sauce (or, should we say, their source) in the digital world. As just what the metaverse can be and do expands in the coming months and virtual/augmented reality becomes a bigger part of daily life, you should expect your digital sneaker game to start holding almost as much weight as your physical one.
Supply Chain Shenanigans
Global supply chains have been wracked with issues since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Backlogs at ports? Shortages of workers at all stops along the way? You name it, it's there. Releases are still delayed for months and months if not cancelled altogether, and some of these delays are unintentionally hilarious – like shoes for holidays releasing months after said holidays have passed. Who the f*ck wants an Easter shoe months after Easter? Frankly, who the f*ck wants an Easter shoe the day after Easter?
The supply chain is still snarled, and it doesn't show any signs of returning to normal any time soon. That means more ultra-early leaks, more last-minute release pushbacks and more uncertainty for the rest of the year. If nothing else, it'll probably make you appreciate what you do have a little more ... right?
Mulement Movers and Shakers
Mules have found footing in the cultural zeitgeist since the COVID-19 pandemic, due to widespread appreciation for casual, no-frills footwear that could be rocked in and outside of the house. You can't call mules a trend anymore – they're here to stay, and even Crocs, a brand that less than three years ago was derided as thoroughly uncool, is putting out some of the most compelling releases from any brand today. It's a byproduct of both an evolution in taste and a shift in perception, and it's going to get a big boost from some of the industry's biggest players.
Gone are the days of quirky drops like the Clogposite – humongous brands like Nike and New Balance are putting mules and clogs at the forefront of their lifestyle offerings. The former is releasing a Jordan Brand clog with interchangeable booties, a sharply-angled clog with Matthew M Williams and some wild Shox mules with Martine Rose, while the second has an un-ironic backless 2002R and its own original foam clog on the way. These aren't one-offs or designs created to make a viral moment, though they'll surely have their fair share. They're entirely serious lifestyle drops, made to fit into seasonal release slates. When even the big boys are taking a trend seriously, that means it's not a trend: it's a staple.