Best Of The Best Sneakers 2015
2015 is almost over, and this year could be the biggest one ever in terms of the sheer volume of sneaker releases! It seemed like there were a dozen collaborations coming out every weekend, not to mention the endless stream of anniversary releases, Jordan retros and mainline offerings from all the brands, ready to empty our wallets. Quantity outweighed quality as our culture continued to grow at staggering rates this year, but at what cost? That’s a topic best saved for another time – when we’re not hung-over from all this end-of-year partying!
2015 marked the year of the come-up for some of the smaller players such as Diadora and Saucony, while we saw others falter under the stress of trying to keep up with the pack. Nike’s dominance is still as strong as ever when it comes to numbers on the board, but for the first time in years, adidas looks like they’re up to the task of dethroning the Portland giants, winning hearts and minds with a strong line-up firmly concentrated on the lifestyle segment.
The biggest breakout hit of the year would have to be the adidas Ultra Boost, and its popularity is reflected in the amount of times it appears in this year’s Sneaker Freaker ‘Best of the Best’ annual feature. Every year we ask friends from within the culture to pick their favourite sneaker release of the year, and as always the results are a mixed bag. Once again, all the usual suspects are representing, but the large amount of adidas in the mix is definitely a sign of things to come in 2016. The sneaker wars are finally getting interesting now as we’re reaching the end of 2015, can’t wait to see what the brands have in store for us next year!
Without wasting any more time, let’s kick-off Sneaker Freaker Magazine’s ‘Best of the Best Sneakers of 2015’…
ADIDAS ULTRA BOOST ‘TRIPLE WHITE’
EMILY OBERG: COMPLEX EDITORIAL PRODUCER
The adidas Ultra Boost is my favourite shoe this year — and not because of Kanye! It’s pretty obvious that adidas owned this past year. Despite the fact that Nike and Jordan still dominate the market in terms of sales, we’ve really seen adidas come into its own and climb to the top of the resale market within the past few months. This might sound like I’m being paid to say it, but if we’re keeping it 100, the Ultra Boost is hands down the comfiest shoe I have ever tried, and I own a decent amount of sneakers!
In NYC, you’re constantly running around the city and these are perfect for both everyday and for the gym. I can wear them to work and I can keep them on when I head to a workout class afterward. The Primeknit is a lot more stretchy and form fitting than other knitted upper technology I’ve tried and the colourways are very wearable. The gray, black and white are super clean and simple, and the metallic logo on the heel gives it a little something extra. They were definitely my go-to sneakers for 2015.
CONVERSE CHUCK TAYLOR II
VINNY TANG: SNEAKER FREAKER ASSISTANT EDITOR
My favourite sneaker of 2015 is not a hyped Jordan retro, a Yeezy or any NikeLab Quickstrike. It wasn’t part of a 25th anniversary collection, nor did it drop in ultra limited numbers — in fact, it was even a GR! The Converse Chuck II has definitely been the highlight of 2015 for me amongst the gigantic roster of releases this year, and I continually find myself reaching past everything in my rotation for my beaten up pair of black Chuck IIs every morning.
Retro silhouettes still continue to dominate sneaker culture and, as a result, every single brand has tried to ‘reinvent’ classic models for a new audience with mixed results over the years. The difference between how Converse approached the Chuck II project and other attempts is that the team in Boston kept everything we know and love of the iconic All-Star and simply improved on the shortcomings of a 100-year-old design. On the surface, it might just be a Chuck Taylor with a Lunarlon insole thrown in it, but on closer inspection every single aspect of the sneaker has been carefully dissected and changes, however subtle, were made to create the ultimate Chuck.
While releases such as the ‘Double Nickel’ AJ10, ‘Trouble at Home’ Air Presto, ‘Uncaged’ Ultra Boost and the Yeezy 350s had me more hyped and frantically calling in favours, the Chuck II was the new shoe I wore the most this year by a long stretch. Many were surprised when I mentioned I was going this direction, as Chuck Taylors have never been taken seriously in the realm of sneakerheads, but I genuinely can’t think of a shoe more deserving of the title for me personally. Great job Converse, I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for this latest chapter of the All-Star legacy!
AIR JORDAN 1 ‘SHATTERED BACKBOARD’
PEDRO: FOOTPATROL ASSISTANT MANAGER
It was a toss up between a few models this year for me as the best one, mainly due to the lack of Footscapes released. Some of the contenders were the Acronym AF1s, Footpatrol Superstars, Missoni Converse 70s Low and just the Ultra Boost in general. Let’s not beat around the bush though; the one sneaker that was a cut above the rest this year was the Jordan 1 including the Chicagos, the UNCs, and, specifically, the Shattered Backboards.
Like most of us, this crazy obsession with sneakers started when I was a kid watching NBA lying on the floor, eyes plastered to the TV, wondering how these guys could fly through the air and slam balls through hoops. I came to the conclusion that “It’s gotta be the shoes”. Obviously, the sneakers that I’d repeatedly see worn during these aerial acrobatics were always Jordans, and this had – and still has – continued to play a notable role in my chaotic sneaker obsession.
What makes the Shattered Backboard such a great kick is a combination of the colourway, the concept and the execution. Be it the buttery soft leather, contrasted with the tumbled paneling or the solid colour scheme with an refreshing concept – both of which are factors I feel have been lacking in recent releases. The silhouette and the unlaced nature it came packaged in is true to the original. Similar to that of a black-toe, but instead of the original red paneling, they’ve chosen to substitute it with a killer foxy orange which runs on the heel and toe, complemented by the off-white and black leather panels — not to mention the “smashing” innersole! All of these factors arguably make it better than the originals and any other retro.
The AJ1 was the first sneaker I ever laid eyes on and, to this day, I still consider it a staple. If the future releases carry on at this quality, they’ll continue to stay in my rotation.
ADIDAS BY KOLOR ULTRA BOOST & HYPEBEAST x ADIDAS ULTRA BOOST ‘UNCAGED’
MATT THOMAS: HIGHS AND LOWS FOUNDER
2015 was the year that Ultra Boost showed that it was the quiet assassin. The Art of War talks about pre-empting your opponent’s move and visualising your move in advance resulting in victory; ‘Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win’. With the Ultra Boost, adidas has achieved that result, destroying all competition in the war on technical running footwear that can segway between the lifestyle market and also remain geared for performance.
I am truly a fan of the ethos behind adidas as a brand and the way it conducts itself as an international business model. The Kolor colab was insightful and directional for a market that was saturated by other contemporary designer capsules. With Kolor and Sacai being a husband (Kolor) and wife (Sacai) team, it was great to see both of the brands work on footwear and apparel collaboration collections at the same time.
The ‘Uncaged’ Hypebeast Ultra Boost was a late arrival in my collection but I was interested to see how it worked technically compared to the caged. The pair went straight on foot and off came the Kolors!
Regardless of colabs or colour variations, the Ultraboost is built for the modern lifestyle. With 2015 done and dusted, 2016 is going to be another great year for the three stripes!
INVINCIBLE x ASICS TIGER GEL LYTE III ‘FORMOSA’
MAYOR: SNEAKER COLLECTOR
In all my years in the sneaker game (30+ years), I would have never thought my favorite sneaker of any year would not be a Nike, Jordan or adidas. so 2015 is coming to an end and with a lot of GREAT releases this year coming from the above mentioned brands it comes as a shocker that my favorite sneaker of this year is the invincible X ASICS Gel-Lyte III ‘Formosa’. The Gel Lyte III features a predominantly grey upper, with touches of red, white and blue on the heel tab… one look at the shoe and its easy to understand why this is my favorite sneaker release of 2015.
BAIT x ADIDAS EQT RUNNING SUPPORT ‘THE BIG APPLE’
STEPH MORRIS: ILLUSTRATOR
So, after thinking about this for a little while, I’m going to have to say the adidas Originals x Bait EQT Running Support ‘The Big Apple’ was my favourite release this year. First off, I just love the whole EQT range and always have but, when I first saw the teaser shots of this release, I could tell it was going to be ridiculously good. The colourway is amazing; the mix of tonal greens with the contrasting red is a real statement maker. I picked up my pencils and just had to draw this. BAIT actually saw the finished piece and I was lucky enough to receive a pair, which I was insanely excited about. In the flesh they surpass all expectations – you know with BAIT you’re going to get super good quality but these are next level. The leather feels so soft, and the midsole is a speckle-lover’s dream! The whole shoe has been put together with love. The funny thing is adidas only made these starting from a UK 6.5 so I had no chance of pulling these off. They’re currently sitting in their box in my bedroom. Even if I only ever get to appreciate these with my eyes, that’s enough for me.
But, adidas if you’re reading this, smaller sizes in future please!
ADIDAS TUBULAR X PRIMEKNIT ‘F&F SNAKESKIN’
ARTHUR BRAY: HYPEBEAST EDITOR
Hard to pin down one favourite sneaker! It’s been such a big year for adidas and especially for Originals’ Tubular X program so I’m settling with the adidas Originals Tubular X Primeknit ‘Snakeskin’. Taking the already compelling Tubular silhouette — merging the Y-3 Qasa along with elements from the ZX Fkux and other accents found in Originals’ replete archive — and transforming it into a mid-top hybrid, the Tubular X is a crisp and sophisticated alternative to the much storied Yeezy Boost models. Its mid-top cut initiates different ways of styling one’s sneakers with their bottoms, whether that’s opting for a classic pin roll, pairing with joggers, or going for a lofty, baggy pants look that’s seen a resurgence in the past few seasons. This particular model is a “Friends & Family’ rendition unveiled at 2016 Summer’s Paris Fashion Week season and features a nylon Primeknit base for a snakeskin-patterned weaved construction. The white-on-white semblance exudes a clean feel all year round.
NIKE AIR MAX 95 ULTRA
SOPHIA CHANG: ARTIST/DESIGNER
The Air Max 95 Ultra is based off the original 95s which I love. I got the two debut colourways as a set earlier this year. The updated construction on this shoe including the taped seam, mesh and thinner cushion makes it lightweight and comfortable without sacrificing the iconic Air Max style. I love the OGs equally as much, however it is definitely a bulkier and a more cushioned look. The 95 Ultra’s are definitely a great addition to my collection! I loved them so much, I ended up getting three colourways!
ADIDAS ULTRA BOOST
SIMON LISTER: END. MARKETING MANAGER
2015 has been an absolute smasher of a year, so much to choose from and literally every week there has been some serious heat to chase. I’ve thought long and hard about my pick and it harks back to my teenage years when the Presto was the ultimate sneaker for me. Now it would be easy to pick from some of the great re-release colourways that came from Nike for the Presto this year, but instead I’m going to pick the adidas Ultra Boost. I’m not sure there is a more comfortable sneaker out there at the moment and the shape and comfort levels remind me of the first time I put Presto’s on my feet. Add to that, the fact Kanye has had them on rotation, it only adds to the frenzy around them. Whether it’s the black, white or recently released grey/silver colourways, they are the sneaker that has really done it for me in 2015.
HANON x ASICS TIGER GEL LYTE III ‘SOLSTICE’
MATT WILLIAMS: SNEAKER FREAKER DEPUTY EDITOR
It is hard to look back on 2015 and not give the blue ribbon to the Yeezy Boost 350. Through its fusion of avant-garde design and Boost technology, adidas and Kanye have delivered a shoe like no other on the market and one that will no doubt leave a lasting effect on the sneaker scene for years to come.
Had I been lucky enough to cop a pair of ‘Turtle Doves’, there’s no question they would be my number one pick, but sadly it just wasn’t meant to be! Instead, my pick for 2015 is going to Hanon’s ‘Solstice’ Gel Lyte III colab. The boys from Aberdeen produced one of the best offerings for the 25th Anniversary of the Gel Lyte III with a shoe that was both comfortably familiar and beautifully executed – but, in honesty, its aesthetics are only a small part of why I’ve picked it for shoe of the year. With only 14 pairs releasing down here in Melbourne, a line-up full of OG Sneaker Freaker fam and one size 12 left for the taking, I decided to hit the streets for an old-fashioned camp out. It had been a lot of years since my last camp out and it can become all too easy to consider putting in so much effort for a pair of kicks as a chore and nothing more – in reality though, that night was fun as hell! Talking shit with fellow sneakerheads, sharing a few sly brewskis on the low and the growing sense of anticipation meant that the time flew right on by. When the store opened its doors at 10am sharp and I finally got my pair in hand, I had a smile on my face that trumped any raffle win or eBay snipe.
This was why I became a sneakerhead!
ADIDAS ULTRA BOOST
PETE WILLIAMS: HIGH SNOBIETY MANAGING EDITOR
I personally love this shoe and, even more so, I grew to love it over the past 12 months. What I love about it most, is that it seemed to take the year for it to grow on the rest of the world too.
Originally debuted as “the most technically advanced running shoe ever” (or something along those lines) the Ultra Boost slid onto shelves of sport stores the world over without any extreme hype – certainly no line-ups. It was simply a great ‘new’ shoe that anyone could buy if they were willing to shell out the dough for a top-of-the-line runner.
As the year went on, Yeezy Boost made its way into the global consciousness. Now, it must be said that in 10 years of being involved in this industry, I have never seen a shoe as universally desired as the Yeezy Boost 350. Thank the Kardashian clan, but this shoe made sneakerheads out of millions that never gave a damn before. So, circling back, the Yeezy Boost — and Yeezy wearing the Ultra Boost — propelled this shoe to the forefront of what I’ll call ‘hype’ culture and, before we knew it, all-white versions were selling out time and time again.
Seeing the initial, and withstanding, ‘everyman’ nature of the Ultra Boost, combined with extreme want, truly makes it stand out as the most exciting shoe of 2015. In my view, not since Nike debuted the Flyknit Racer has an all-new silhouette made such an impact, and arguably much moreso.
Cultural importance aside, the launch colourway was great, the fit and look fantastic, and the comfort unmatched. It’s an all-around amazing piece of footwear. The more I wear it, the more I enjoy it. In my opinion, it’s already a certified classic.
NIKE AIR MAX 95 ‘GREEDY’
There were so many sick releases from Saucony, Puma, adidas and the others this year, but my heart will always be with Nike – so, naturally my favourite shoe of 2015 would have to be a pair of Nikes. Also, I wanted to pick something that I can actually wear so the sneaker had to be available in small sizes!
Everyone that collects trainers has had the feeling at some point in their lives that they want to wear more than one pair of sneakers at a time and can’t decide – and the Air Max 95 ‘Greedy’ nails that in one! I think it’s such a cleverly constructed pair of shoes because it combines four OG Nike colourways onto one shoe and when you look at the pair from the front you can see its split into the four colourways.,
I love the attention to detail on these as a whole, especially how the lace hoops match the respective sides, and how the insole of one shoe reflects the colourway of the other shoe. I love anything with 3M (I’m easily pleased haha) and of course these are no different to any other AM95 with the 3M heel and tongue detailing. They have also continued the theme of the ‘opposites’ with the air bubbles to match the insoles.
The AM95 silhouette, to most, can be compared to marmite – you either love it or you hate it! I’ve always really liked the shoe, and growing up in London, 95s or (110s as they were known) were like the shoe everyone wore back in the day. Being someone who has UK 4.5-sized feet, AM95’s were really hard to find in my size until recently, and definitely not in those OG colourways on the Greedys! So it’s sick to have them fused onto one pair of shoes that had a GS size run. I’m really happy that the GS version kept the three separate Air bubbles rather than the heel bubble they usually use on the smaller versions of the 95s!
ADIDAS ULTRA BOOST
FOAMER SIMPSON: VLOGGER
It’s always tough to pick the best release of the year. It’s something I normally go back and forth on to the point where I almost have to go super ‘90s with it and resort to rock, paper, scissors. However, this time around, it’s actually a relatively easy decision. My favourite release of 2015 is the adidas Ultra Boost.
It was a huge year for adidas in general, but the Ultra Boost is really the cream of the crop. They changed the game with these — it’s by far the most comfortable sneaker I have ever laced up. The Boost technology is amazing; so much so that trying to describe it to someone who hasn’t experienced it becomes slightly problematic. Calling the cushioning setup ‘soft’ just doesn’t seem good enough. It feels like it’s made out of God’s one billion thread count bathrobe, or angel feathers that were marinated for 952 years in organic cocoa butter. It’s literally like you’re walking on clouds.
Aside from the comfort aspect, which is nothing short of heavenly, I also love the look of this model. I haven’t seen a colourway I don’t like — every single one pisses excellence. The silhouette is sleek, but bold. I feel good rocking these with some sweats, but they’re equally as dope with a nice pair of denim.
To sum it up, the adidas Ultra Boost is unfuckwitable. Bless up.
NIGO x ADIDAS CAMPUS 80S ‘STAN SMITH’
ALEX JAMES: PUBLISH BRAND DIRECTOR
2015 was the year of the Stan Smith. It was a well-played strategic move by adidas that had been in the works for a few years. One of my all-time favourite fashion figures Nigo put out a series of collaborative efforts with adidas, one of them being my pick for shoe of the year in 2015 — the Nigo by adidas Originals Campus 80s. This shoe has the aesthetic of the infamous Stan Smith with the body of another classic, the Campus. When I first put this shoe on, I wore it for a week straight! This shoe started to become a part of my daily uniform. The more they wore in, the better they looked, I even wore them to a wedding and crushed it.
Another smart trend you see in this shoe is the combination of the off-white sole. We saw a huge resurgence of white tones in 2015. The off-white rubber really sets the shoe off and gives it a completely different vibe. When it comes to sneakers, I really lean toward the clean minimalistic approach and the concept was perfectly executed in this shoe. It’s one of those shoes that any type of person can wear and feel good about. They made the right move by adding a really nice supple leather to set the shoe off in a much more contemporary fashion steez. I feel like there were so many amazing releases in 2015 and this one was just overlooked. When you think of adidas, it’s the Yeezy, the Ultra Boost, the Y-3 range, and even the Superstar. I did not let this release slip my radar and I made sure that I got two pairs. I own about 50 pairs of clean low top white sneakers and this one has become my go-to. Shouts to Nigo and adidas!
LIMITEDITIONS x DIADORA N9000 ‘CASTELLERS’
JASON FAUSTINO: EXTRA BUTTER CO-FOUNDER
It’s compromising to not choose one of our own. I feel like we had an incredible year, colab projects that were so personal to me, but I’m going to choose something else and explain why. My favorite shoe this year was the LimitEDition x Diadora ‘Castellers’ N.9000.
Diadora did amazing work this year and even in a crowded running space, they felt like a new TV series to capture my attention and hook me in. Their ‘Made in Italy’ craftsmanship is drool-worthy, and the crème de la crème for me is the Casteller because it wins at a time where it has become completely and sickeningly standard to toss a color (or two if we’re lucky), onto a shoe and call it a day… and a colab! If a compelling story is there, then maybe I can see it as something above in-line (nothing wrong with in-line), and for the Castellers, its story and design is a culture that fascinated my mind. We’re at the point where people’s hobbies are social media platform meetups. No thanks, let’s climb each other and form a beautiful human castle!
I’ve never heard of such an activity and became fascinated with it. Wondering how people train for it, how hard it is, how would I avoid being part of the pinya (research!), and why their outfits were so dope!
I don’t even know much about LimitEDitions, which is cool when a name doesn’t dictate the purchase of something, but after this I’ll be paying much closer attention to any of their work. I’m thankful it provoked me to search around, and covet the unboxing, which I’ve done several times in multiple locations so I can describe the details and backstory. In our culture of hype wylin’, it’s nice to have a piece of work not only speak for itself but standout.