ARTICLE BY Ross Dwyer

Sneaker Freaker's Mid-Year Staff Picks 2022

Sneaker Freaker Staff Picks

The first six months of 2022 are in the books, and as we head into the second half of the year, we're taking a moment to look back on our favourite kicks so far this year – and another to look forward and spotlight what we're excited about over the next six months!

In between howling in delighted terror at Stranger Things and bumping the new albums from Kendrick Lamar and Drake, the Sneaker Freaker staff compiled a diverse list with everything from GORP-y goodness to retro basketball shoes and – even an extra-wavy parody pair. Dig in, and may the next six months bring us more sublime sneakers!

First Half Favourites

Salomon XT-4 'Tobacco Leaf'

Ross: Salomon XT-4 'Tobacco Leaf'

At risk of sounding like a grumpy old sneakerhead, I've found a lion's share of this year's releases to be uninspired and uninteresting. Also, I wish that Travis Scott would just go away. Now that I'm done kvetching, I'll admit that a few things piqued my interest over the last six months, one of which is how Salomon have been on a major roll with their XT-4 and XT-6 colourways.

I tend to get stuck in my ways when it comes to my sneaker choices, and although I'd watched Salomon's rise from afar for several years I hadn't actually considered buying a pair until my co-worker Lucas, who selected the tie-dye XT-4 as his favourite shoe of the year last year, eventually cajoled (read: coerced) me into it. I've never been happier to drink the Kool-Aid. The XT-4 is unbelievably lightweight, and comfortable in a perfectly unobtrusive fashion. If you put them on and didn't look down, you'd forget they were there. However, they look so good with their boldly-branded tongues, speed lacing system, rubber toe cap and toothy outsoles that you won't be able to stop stealing glimpses. I'm based in NYC, but when I wear these feel like I could walk all the way to the French Alps on some The Proclaimers sh*t.

,MSCHF Wavy Baby

Lucas: MSCHF 'Wavy Baby'

2022 feels like a fresh start after two turbulent years of pandemic problems. What’s helped massage the return to normal has been a stack of good films like Top Gun: Maverick. Some of the older films I watched clearly thought we'd all be flying in cars and wearing self-lacing shoes by now, but instead, there seems to be an arms race to release the wildest, most near-unwearable shoes possible. I know what you’re thinking: ‘Lucas, what a strange segue,’ but that’s my point – It’s getting weird out there, and I LOVE weird. That’s why the ‘Wavy Baby’ sneaker by the funny folk at MSCHF is my fave shoe of the year, so far. While most hate it as much as the lawyers at Vans do, I love it and feel giddy every time someone triple takes at my feet when I attempt to wear them out of the house.

Union x Nike Dunk Low 'Passport Pack'

Gabe: Union x Nike Dunk 'Passport Pack'

What’s harder than updating your passport in 2022? Tracking down a pair of Union’s ‘Passport’ Dunk Lows. While Dunk fatigue has been a legitimate ailment here at Sneaker Freaker HQ (I took a sick day last week), Union’s collaboration showed us that originality is still possible, the trio of superfly colourways paying homage to Union’s homes in LA, Tokyo and NYC.

Nike Air Kukini 'Topography'

Seb: Nike Air Kukini 'Topography'

I was originally planning on choosing the recently-resurrected Oakley Flesh as my top pick but after sitting down to write this paragraph I got a glimpse at my Nike-covered feet and changed my mind. The Air Kukini is my most worn shoe of 2022 so far, so it was the logical choice. I’ve always admired the Alpha Project silhouettes and spent a good chunk of my teen years riding the bus in Air Prestos, so when word about the Kukini retro came through, I was psyched! The leopard-adorned colourway that released first wasn’t to my taste, but when this psychedelic blue joint landed at Up There I just had to cop!

Minh: adidas Superstar 82

I’ve experienced the entire life cycle of adidas' revitalised Superstar 82 so far. I covered its release at the beginning of the year, then sadly saw it languish amid all of the other sneakers on the market, and finally saw it end up in the sale section of most retailers. Before it fades away into obscurity, I want to give it its flowers. I already started the process by buying a pair for personal use, then I proclaimed it as one of 2022’s best sneaker retros. And I can again express verbally how great they are by picking them as my favourite sneaker of the first half of 2022.

via @neverwearthem

Cesca: MADE in USA New Balance 990v2

I have been into Teddy Santis and New Balance's takes on the 990v2 since Aime Leon Dore’s 2019 990v2 link-up. Everything about that release was killer: the silhouette choice, the colourway, even the perfectly styled announcement images had me proclaiming I’d found my new winter look. Alas, it wasn’t to be, but fast forward to 2022 and his debut collection as creative director of NB’s Made in USA imprint is here. The first super-plush shaggy suede trio, and its v2 specifically, was just what I needed. They’re signature NB style turned up to 11. Grey, check. Swish materials, check. On point packaging, check.

Cav Empt Cav Shoes

Anthony: Cav Empt Cav Shoes

This pick isn’t a surprise for those that know me. My wardrobe almost entirely consists of clothes from C.E (Cav Empt). No exaggeration.

Most people find this odd, and wonder why I'm so loyal to C.E. Am I trying to have a huge collection? Do I feel like a walking billboard? No. It’s not really about the hype, about having a 'collection' or even whether any of the Y2K references present in most of their designs represent me – although there is a tiny bit of truth in all of the above. The simple answer is C.E just fits well to my Asian proportions: oversized but boxy and short. I feel like it’s made for me. On top of that, shopping becomes incredibly easy when you limit your infinite options down to a brand that feels like your own personal designer. With all that in mind, how could I pass on these in-brand shoes? These are made by my personal designer for ME ... at least it feels that way.

Looking Forward To

HUF x Nike SB Dunk Low Collection

Ross: HUF x Nike SB Dunk Low Collection

Believe it or not, I'm actually not a huge Nike SB guy. I know, I know – that's a travesty for anyone who liked shoes back in the 2000s to say. Give me a break: I was in middle school and high school back then, and more concerned with basketball than skateboarding. That doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed SB from a distance, I just have a made-up personal sneaker rule that I can't wear SBs because I don't skateboard and don't want to be a poser.

However, I'm more than willing to break my self-imposed mandate for any of HUF's three SB Dunk Lows. The NYC and San Fransisco pairs are tasteful, touching tributes to the two cities that shaped Keith Hufnagel and his brand, while the friends and family pair is so jam-packed full of callouts to HUF and Nike's collaborative history that you could write an article about it alone – which I just might have to do. Shouts to Hanni, Randy and the rest of the HUFset. You guys knocked it outta the park on these jawns.

Salomon ACS Pro Advanced

Lucas: More Salomon ACS Pro Advanced Colourways

I’m hoping to see the wacky colour designers at Salomon get freakier with the ACS Pro Advanced. The silhouette is decked with details screaming to be coloured up in some wild combo and material mélange. The KAR colab knows what’s up. I just hope they keep them coming in slow succession so I can still afford to collect every pair – I’m at 5/7 right now!

Nike Air Ship 'Team Orange'
via @mr_unloved1s

Gabe: Nike Air Ship 'Team Orange'

Re-introduced for All-Star Weekend, the chimerical Nike Air Ship eluded nearly all of us back in 2020. Thankfully, it looks like the Swoosh are booking a wider release for the silo, with the ‘Team Orange’ colourway expected to land over the coming months. Please don’t leave me standing solemnly by the shore this time, Swoosh.

Wales Bonner SS23
via Acielle/Style Du Monde

Seb: adidas x Wales Bonner SS23

I've always enjoyed Wales Bonner's adidas colabs, and their recent SS23 FW show in London had a stack more! She doesn’t look to be using Sambas again but I need to get my hands on those silver indoor soccer kicks before the year is out – the attention to detail is crazy.

Nike Air Force 1 40th Anniversary,

Minh: Anniversary Air Force 1s

I'm excited to wear a variety of white anniversary Air Force 1s from Nike. Less is more.

MADE in USA New Balance 990 Collection

Cesca: MADE in USA New Balances

What I'm looking forward to is the same as what I'm loving – I, and everyone else who's a New Balance fan, will be watching to see what else Teddy Santis' MADE in USA line has on the way for the rest of 2022.

New Balance 990v6

Anthony: New Balance 990v6

When Ross asked me what sneaker I was excited for in 2022 at the start of the year, I couldn’t look past the 990v6. We’re a few months into this year and my answer hasn’t changed. If anything, my excitement for the grey and navy colourways of the 990v6 has only grown. I’ve seen early impressions from New Balance fans on Reddit about this shoe and they ain’t looking pretty. Call me a contrarian, but I feel like this is a good sign that New Balance is taking risks and taking the 99X series into a new space that will grow on fans in time!

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