Want an excuse to get in contact with your work heroes? Pitch an ‘Industry Insider’ list to a sneaker publication and reach out under the guise of ‘content’. It never fails.
Yes, fine, that’s creepy, but that’s the nature of following people in the age of cascading timelines. We keep tabs on our community’s cognoscenti from afar, admiring projects through push notifications and seven-second blasts.
Those we’ve admired this year have (somewhat) quietly succeeded. Not the household names with direct lines to the sneaker-verse’s puppet masters, these industry insiders have provided value by geeking out on what they love. They’ve channelled decades of design knowledge into uniquely qualified tech reviews, broken big stories, guided the biggest retail and resale platforms, hacked designs, and — perhaps more importantly — given us memes.
But beyond the sponcon and watchful gaze of affiliates, which of 2018’s sneakers were they most psyched about? We hit up a select few to find out.
EMILY OBERG, CREATIVE CONSULTANT/OWNER OF SPORTY & RICH
TODD SNYDER x NEW BALANCE 990
The Todd Snyder 990 was one of the best collaborations I saw all year. The 990 is my favourite shoe of all time, so naturally I loved this one. The creamy white base with veg tan and grey accents fit so perfectly well together. It’s definitely the most-elevated 990 colab I have seen to date. I would’ve liked to have seen a wider release of the shoe, because it’s a shame I didn’t get my hands on a pair!,
FOAMER SIMPSON, YOUTUBER
SEAN WOTHERSPOON x NIKE AIR MAX 1/97
The Nike Air Max 1/97 by Sean Wotherspoon is my favourite sneaker of 2018. Perfectly executed in every facet. Even the build up and roll out where Sean was driving around LA in the Scooby Doo van and giving pairs to his homies — the whole thing just had a different type of energy around it. Most colabs these days are forced, but this one felt so organic, and that was incredibly refreshing.
The shoe itself is as unique as everything that led up to it. Fusing together two classic Air Max models, and then decking it out in multicoloured corduroy?! C’mon man, you gotta respect it! Sean did the opposite of playing it safe, and it paid off.
LAWRENCE SCHLOSSMAN, GRAILED BRAND DIRECTOR
UNION x AIR JORDAN 1
As far as new silhouettes go, the React Element 87 was a banger. And the CDG Air Mowabb was everything I want a ‘high fashion’ sneaker colab to be. But the only sneaker of 2018 that matters was the Union x Air Jordan 1. Everyone is always talking about ‘attention to detail’ when it comes to sneakers, but that’s usually a bunch of bullshit lip service because they can’t really find anything new or noteworthy to talk about. That’s why Chris Gibbs is the G.O.A.T. If you have good taste, this sneaker is a goddamn dream. From the big picture, mash-up concept to the leather and painted edges — PAINTED FUCKING EDGES! — this sneaker just checks every box. I’ll take the blue colourway. Thanks.
THE SHOE SURGEON, CUSTOMISER
VERSACE CHAIN REACTION
My favourite release of 2018 was Versace’s Chain Reaction. The designer, Salehe Bembury, is my friend. I saw him start the entire process. The way he actually marketed himself was dope to me. They turned around the sole so fast. It was the most exciting shoe of 2018 for me.
TIFFANY BEERS, HEAD OF GAMING INNOVATION AND AUDIO ENGINEERING FOR LOGITECH G AND ASTRO GAMING
NIKE PEGASUS TURBO
So many awesome shoes were released this year which makes it hard to choose just one. This was also finally the year of women’s releases. We saw specific sneakers releasing that attempted to mimic the men’s hype releases… now whether the women’s hit the mark is another question. Wearability is my #1 factor in choosing this year’s winner. Vying for my top spot of 2018 sneaker releases were:
Lebron 16 HFR — The only women’s release that truly hit the mark in terms of story and resonance, but not so wearable.
Element React 87 — Looks fresh and fun but is not comfortable.
Epic React — Feels awesome on and underfoot until 100+ miles, then problems arise.
Pegasus Turbo — All good all the time, except the colourway looks dirty and gross once it’s worn for a bit.
adidas Solar BOOST — Perfect combo of comfort, performance and looks.
Parley AM4LA — Eco, comfort and performance, can’t wait until those recycled fibres aren’t so rough.
Allbirds Wool Runner — Absolute comfort, simple design, and a low price point. But it doesn’t age well — i.e. seeing toes is weird.
So, I’ve got to go with the Pegasus Turbo as my top shoe of 2018. It became my go-to for any performance activity or long day of walking. The adidas Solar BOOST tied for second place with the AM4LA because the eco story is the key to our future.
LARO LAGOSTA, ILLUSTRATOR AND GRAPHIC DESIGNER
NIKE REACT ELEMENT 87
My favourite sneaker of 2018 is the Nike React Element 87. I loved almost all of the colourways and the colab with Undercover is amazing — the vivid colors in contrast with pastel tones, the exposed raw materials, sewing lines, the cork insole puts together a premium sneaker with a bold overall look. The transparent material allows a creative approach to your sock choice, allowing a personal touch without changing the final product. The nike react sole is extremely comfortable, the rubber climbing from the bottom to the sole wall with the dynamic round elements make it look like organic and alive.
Though it has a chunky sneaker vibe, it maintains the elegant silhouette and dynamic of a running shoe.
JACQUES SLADE, YOUTUBER/CONTENT CREATOR
NIKE VAPORFLY 4% FLYKNIT
I know it is an odd choice, but there is something really special about this sneaker.
Since I stared running in 2017 I have garnered a new level of respect for running shoes. In the past, I wore them strictly in a fashion sense. But as of late their function has really struck a chord with me.
The Zoom Fly was a great running shoe and the upgrade to the Flyknit on the VaporFly 4% really helped seal the deal for me. The feel these give you on race day is pretty incredible and I've even worn them casually and received quite a few looks and questions about them, which is a good thing. From the lightweight Flyknit upper, to the ZoomX cushioning, to the carbon fiber plate, these were executed almost perfectly.
Were they the most hyped shoe? If we are really being honest, the Pegasus Turbo fits the bill as well. Will the 'heads in the culture cop one to rock and one to stock? I doubt it — but I did. And that, my friends, was enough for me to consider it one of my favorite sneakers of 2018.
CHRIS JAMES, VFILES ART DIRECTOR
UNDERCOVER x NIKE REACT ELEMENT 87
I’ve always loved a sneaker that’s a little weird and these hit the nail on the head. The transparent upper paired with the React sole make these just the right amount of ~the future~ and makes me wish I got another three pairs. It also doesn’t hurt that you can mix up your socks and you get a new pair of sneakers every time you wear them.
Nike and Jun really killed it with this one, especially on what I call the 'beach' colourway - 5 stars.
BRAD HALL, YOUTUBER:
OFF-WHITE x NIKE BLAZER 'ALL HALLOWS EVE'
I love the way this shoe looks. The way the big orange swoosh jumps off the yellowish tan upper. The way that same swoosh gently dips into the midsole. The way the different materials add texture and intrigue to the upper.
And not only do I love the way this shoe looks, I also love the way the shoe makes me feel. It's nearly impossible to win a drawing on the Nike SNKRS app, so when you do, it makes you feel like you're on top of the world. This shoe is a reminder that, no matter how difficult things get, it's important to have hope.