This year, Nike continued to prove their staying power with a tremendous lineup of releases, utilising their archive of beloved silhouettes while also leaning on their roster of creative collaborators like Tom Sachs, Martine Rose, and RTFKT. The Dunk was impossible to overlook this year, as limited drops and general releases marked each and every weekend release calendar.
It was another massive year for the brand with the Swoosh, so without further ado, here are the top 10 Nike sneakers from 2022.
Tom Sachs x Nike General Purpose Shoe
A name that sits on the fence between fine artist and industrial designer, Tom Sachs is one of Nike’s most unique collaborators. Employing a material called Vectran that was used to construct the ISS, Sachs’ ultra-collectible Mars Yard shoe was released in 2012 before receiving an updated retro treatment in 2016.
This year, Sachs introduced his General Purpose Shoe, which came with a campaign claiming ‘Creativity is the Enemy’. Conceived as a ‘product of our ongoing research into how our bodies meet the ground’, Sachs and Nike created the GPS as a shoe for any occasion.
It side-steps ornate details or high-brow thematic designs, instead favouring a function-first aesthetic that parallels many of Sachs’ mil-spec and utilitarian creations.
RTFKT x Nike Dunk Genesis
At the end of 2021, Nike acquired digital studio RTFKT, a name known for its virtual sneakers and collectibles that sit at the intersection of fashion and gaming.
The result of this team-up was the RTFKT X Nike Dunk Genesis CRYPTOKICKS sneaker. In partnership with Skin Vial tech, owners of the RTFKT x Nike token can customise the digital kicks using special skins designed by RTFKT’s community of artists and collaborators. Over time, the collection’s skins will evolve your Nike Dunk Genesis, earning ‘drip upgrades’ and special perks as the RTFKT x Nike metaverse grows and comes to fruition over the course of the partnership.
Jacquemus x Nike Air Humara
As the industry has been showering praise on designer Simon Porte Jacquemus and his eponymous brand, Nike announced a collaboration with the French label. Initial teasers of a dainty, Nike-shaped clasp had loves of the kitschy cute Le Chiquito bag wondering what was to follow.
Nike and Jacquemus’ collection of off-duty sportswear folded in references from tennis and running to create a monochromatic and minimal vision. The footwear component comprised a rugged ACG silhouette, the 1998 Air Humara, softened up with chic touches like gold mini-Swooshes, smooth leather, and fuzzy nubuck.
Nike Dunk Low ‘Panda’
After being absent from the sneaker conversation for the last 10 years or so, the Dunk has been steadily reclaiming the spotlight since 2020.
Dubbed the ‘Panda’ colourway, this monochrome makeup was omnipresent in malls and city sidewalks worldwide throughout 2022. The Dunk’s built-in clout is unmistakable, thanks to OG SB collaborations from the mid-2000s or new team-ups like Ben & Jerry’s and The Grateful Dead. But the ‘Panda’ Dunk’s appeal lies in its simplicity and wearability. For many Gen Z sneakerheads, the ‘Panda’ Dunk was an approachable low-top that acted as a gateway into the nuances of sneaker culture, much like a white-on-white Air Force 1 or a simple Blazer.
While 2022 was packed to the brim with Dunk releases and ‘Be True’ colourway bring backs, the ‘Panda’ Dunk rose above the rest to become one of the year’s most ubiquitous sneakers.
NOCTA x Nike Hot Step Air Terra
After significant social-media teasing by The Boy himself, the Nike Hot Step Air Terra arrived under Drake’s NOCTA imprint this year. A mixture of basketball and outdoor components, the Hot Step’s upper pulls from early-2000s Nike basketball models, resting atop a grippy hiking outsole.
Purportedly, the concept was to create a shoe with the same street-ready appeal as a Nike TN but with the simplicity and subliminal appeal of a white-on-white Air Force 1. The shoe’s standout details include a pillowy perforated upper, Air cushioning in the midsole, and a shark tooth-tread outsole – apparently a special request from Drake that would aid his shoes in gripping a potentially slippery stage surface.
Union x Nike Dunk Low
Union’s passport-inspired Dunks arrived at a time when pandemic restrictions were loosening in many parts of the world. The colour scheme is a direct nod to passport visa stamps, a theme that acknowledges Union founder Chris Gibbs’ travels to Japan in the early 2000s.
The American passport is visible in the shoe’s makeup, but more specifically, Union’s Nike Dunk ‘Passport’ pack takes cues from the 2001 Nike Dunk Low CO.JP Argon. This Dunk was set apart from others thanks to its semi-translucent ripstop nylon covering, which could be left intact or peeled off the shoe’s upper. Underneath, Union’s easily recognisable logo could be found on the heel.
Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1
This year, Louis Vuitton and Nike teamed up to release the most luxurious Air Force 1 ever.
Priced between $2,750 and $3,450 and made by hand in Italy, nine versions of the shoe were released to the public, featuring a mixture of classic and avant-garde colourways. The project was teed up by artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear Virgil Abloh before his passing.
The original idea for the collection calls back to Abloh’s SS22 for Louis Vuitton, when he recreated 47 bespoke versions of the shoe featuring a selection of materials like leather, crocodile, faux fur, PVC and more. The shoes went on to be auctioned by Louis Vuitton.
The collaboration marked the first time an Air Force 1 had been manufactured outside a Nike factory. At the French fashion house’s Fiesso d’Artico factory, craftspeople cut patterns and assembled the shoes by hand, creating a sneaker defined by unsurpassed quality.
Cactus Plant Flea Market x Nike Dunk Low
Cactus Plant Flea Market are certainly a contender for creating the most bizarre Dunk of 2022. Covered in dense fur, the shoe comes with a tag reading ‘Please Trim Excess Material on Nike CPFM Flea 1 Before Wear.’ The hairy Chia Pet-like shoe channels the brand’s organic aesthetics and handmade, DIY twists. But more importantly, it’s a shoe that isn’t necessarily trying to be cool – it’s just trying to be fun. Just like most of the whimsical output we’ve seen from CPFM.
Martine Rose x Nike Shox MR4
A designer who continually pushes boundaries with her footwear collaborations, this year, Martine Rose reworked the 2000 Shox R4. The release followed up on Rose’s 2019 Air Monarch 4 colab, another collaboration that divided opinions but also established Rose as a true innovator.
Debuted at Rose’s show in London, the Nike Shox MR4 was essentially turned into a high-heel by the British designer. Altering the shoe’s silhouette entirely, the acute, pointed-toe box and Shox cushioning platform bring the technical sneaker into new territory, where the line between sports and fashion is truly indistinguishable. Rose revealed that reworking the sneaker to such a drastic degree presented a number of challenges, including factories who doubted the design was realistic.
COMME des GARÇONS x Nike Air Sunder
Nike’s collaboration with COMME des GARÇONS dates back decades. The sportswear giant has partnered with the avant-garde Japanese label to re-work silhouettes like the Blazer, Dunk, and Air Force 1, and more obscure shoes like the Zoom Haven, Air Kukini, and this year, the Air Sunder.
While 2022 also marked a CDG x Nike Air Max 97 colab, it was the Air Sunder that made a bigger splash in the sneaker landscape. Just like all CDG x Nike drops, the laceless runner was mocked up in three monochromatic colourways, allowing subtle details to come to the forefront, like the shoe’s sculptural sole and small Swoosh on the upper. Nike’s collaboration with COMME shows no signs of stopping, so be sure to expect an inclusion on our 2023 recap as well.
Want more highlights from 2022? Make sure to check out the best collaborations!