Nothing had room to breathe — we forgot about products by Monday as we waited for the next Saturday’s offerings and as a result, a lot of great shoes were overlooked. We tried to make this a top 14, given the year, but ended up with some overspill that makes up the honorary mentions. This is in no particular order, but they’re the ones that sprang to mind when we discussed the year’s best. While we think they put out so much that we got overwhelmed, adidas Originals had a great year after being eclipsed by Nike in our year-end round up back in 2013.
NIKE SB & LANCE MOUNTAIN AIR JORDAN I
If you’re a child of the Animal Chin era you know about the Air Jordan I’s secret life beyond the basketball court. You probably know about folks like Gonz painting on a pair and Lance Mountain rocking two makeups in those pre-switch stance days. Nike SB’s projects with Craig Stecyk (who can be credited with creating Nike’s earliest skate connections) and Lance Mountain were conceptual and brilliant, building on earlier SBs like the Slam City Dunk, with underlays that needed to be skated off for full appreciation. A great tribute to a Jordan story rarely spotlighted on this scale and, after all the rumours, the Nike SB Jordan I didn’t disappoint.
NIKE AIR PRESTO SP ‘GENEALOGY OF FREE’
The entire Genealogy of Free pack deserves to be here, because that black and grey is a stealthy combination that makes shoes better. 2000’s Presto is a shoe that represents CT’s early days perfectly, with a level experimentation and the kind of marketing campaign that you just don’t see these days. This wasn’t the most unique makeup, but anyone who grabbed a pair (and we were heartened by the level of hype here), had a keeper. Unless they were a reseller. We’re still a little unnerved by the fact the Nike Free system is a decade old though.
ADIDAS ZX 710
For anyone that moans about shapes on shoes not coming correct in a retro, this was the antidote. We’d always wanted to see a reissue of 1987’s adidas ZX 710 and when they brought it back, they did an incredible job on it. Except nobody seemed to rush to the stores to grab them. The ultra-reasonable price point in a world where over 100 has become a norm didn’t shift them and even Kanye wearing a pair never seemed to make an impact on sales, but one day this shoe will be sought-after. We made sure to stock up.
ADIDAS EQT GUIDANCE 93 (AND SUPPORT 93) REISSUE
This represents the EQT Support and Guidance ’93 reissues and the European collaborations that followed. After years of crying out for retros of the 1993 Equipment runners we got what we wanted. We used to be told “It’s complicated” when we raised the topic if why adidas’s rich history of cult early 1990s technical running wasn’t being mined sufficiently. Something to do with adidas’s performance and Originals wing not wanting to crossover apparently. Then somebody saw sense. Madcap sizing aside, while we could complain that there’s too many colourways out there in contrast to the austerity of the original makeups (which, in itself, contradicts the ethos of EQT), Perth’s Highs and Lows kept it early 1990s with their take on the mighty Guidance. Naturally, we lost our minds over them.
NEW BALANCE M997 REISSUE
After years of rumours, the New Balance M997 got a US-made re-release earlier this year. We loved the greys (the image above should be the greys and these Author’s Pack editions) and we loved these M997PR editions too. Anyone with taste and a few quid in their pocket needed both in their life. This makeup was probably better than any collaboration this year, its literary inspired, ultra-tasteful colour combination. They were crazy expensive though (prices will probably rise), but these are better than ten lesser shoes combined. Perfection. This 1990 silhouette stays reassuringly costly.
ADIDAS CONSORTIUM SUPERSTAR ‘MADE IN FRANCE’
If, like us, you’re so bloated on partner projects that the ten years since Superstar 35 have flown by in a hype-addled haze, you probably haven’t been too into the shelltoe lately. On the eve of its 46th birthday (taking its 1969 court debut into account) adidas slapped us out of our Superstar apathy with this French made edition. That leather is crazy, the off white shell, sole and lining are a perfect trinity and they don’t come up as small as they have done in the past. We haven’t been able to respect the provenance of a pair since production shifted from Eastern Europe around the late 1980s, so this Consortium drop was a treat. A glorious love letter to an undisputed masterpiece. Nice packaging too.How are they gonna top this one? We’re interested to see what the next 12 months hold for this model — it’s likely to be as in the spotlight as the Stan was back in January.
ADIDAS SPEZIAL & OI POLLOI ARDWICK
The adidas SPEZIAL line is a triumph. Gary Aspden and the team took a leap of faith in just letting adidas do what it always did best rather than trying to be something it isn’t. Puritanical touches, a touch of irreverence and some low-key hybrids all brought out the best in the brand. Even if obscure European handball, leisure and training designs aren’t to your tastes, you should salute a passion project’s success in a lurid, hype-led world. Best of all, this Oi Polloi collaboration for SPEZIAL, the Ardwick, based on the SPEZIAL Topanga silhouette (which in turn, was based on the rare California design). Just as adidas’s models from back in the day getting a change of materials could justify a new name, the Ardwick took on a life of its own. With all the queues up north and plenty of newspaper coverage, it’s like a Galaxy Foamposite you can actually wear.
NEW BALANCE & CONCEPTS M997CPT
Another M997? Why not. Concepts have been killing it over the last couple of years with collaborations, but getting this US-made classic as a project exclusive to their Boston stores and NYC space was a coup. In the flesh, that pink was remarkably restrained and the snake textured 3M looked and felt expensive. Factor in the special box that Concepts put their projects in and the wild RRP seemed to make sense. No dumb subplots. Rosé bottles popped. A great shoe from New Balance, beautifully built in premium materials — pretty much everything we want in a shoe, and in these post Cam’ron days, this colour is well and truly unisex.
ADIDAS ZX FLUX
adidas Originals have been messing with their formulas for a minute now, so why did this one make noise like it did? To be honest, the mesh editions of this pared down remake of classic late 1980s ZX Torsion didn’t do a lot for us — it just seemed like a basic Roshe retaliation. Then the nylon uppered versions with the vivid prints like this truly wavy graphic edition dropped and we lost our minds. The shoe made a lot of sense then and the silhouette seemed to come alive. What if you could make your own? mi ZX Flux was the custom program we’d wanted to see for years. Now we can understand why this model became a bestseller and we think it did a great job of introducing younger generations to the might of the ZX 5000, 8000 and 9000 too.
NIKE KOBE IX ELITE
It’s obnoxious to include something this rare here, but this is one of the best looking basketball shoes in a long, long, long time. This was the year when HTM would strike out of nowhere like the days of old when Mark, Tinker and Hiroshi’s shoes were gone as soon as we’d heard of them. Of course, this spot could be filled by the rainbow Flyknit NIKEiD option (that vanished quickly) and the Beethovens too, but if you were in Milan that fateful morning, you definitely got your hands on one of the best shoes of the decade. After so many similar shoes from 2008 to 2013, we’re glad that Kobe Bryant’s line caused a fuss again. Shoe genius Eric Avar has still got some firepower when it comes to designing future classics that are destined to retro somewhere down the line.
DIADORA & PATTA N9000
We never paid too much attention to Diadora’s running output beyond Ed Moses and the ill-fated deal with Ben Johnson, but the N9000 from 1990 is a decent shoe. If this one had been banged out to capitalise on the current zeitgeist and manufactured far, far away, we probably wouldn’t have cared about it at all, but the Italian-build and use of colour via our friends at Patta (happy anniversary to the whole crew) led to a trio of phenomenal makeups. Thanks to some expert consultancy, Diadora are still being sparing with this model. We’re interested to see what’s on the horizon…
NIKE AIR TECH CHALLENGE II ‘WIMBLEDON’
More often than not, when a shoe is re-released, it’s slaughtered by a load of bad material, disrespectful makeups to compensate for the cost of bringing the silhouette back in the first place. Most of the time we end up wishing that they hadn’t bothered, but with Nike’s second resurrection of the Tech Challenge II (third if you count that unreleased one from 2000), they put out an array of colourways that were pretty strong, after the quiet drop of the first Wimbledon makeup in 2013. Whoever is handling the NRG versions of the ATC deserves to take home a trophy — the French, Australian and U.S Open editions were all excellent, but the second Wimbledon edition’s use of premium materials, texture, reflectivity, colour blocking and resurrection of the classic Nike Tennis iconography of the past made us, the children of the Agassi era, very happy indeed.
NIKE ZOOM HYPERCROSS TR
Nike’s training division is something we’ve always fixated on and recent years have been extremely progressive when it comes to fitness innovations. The new iteration of Nike Zoom that’s visible in the outsole on the Nike LeBron 12 was on the Zoom Hypercross TR too, with a flexibility and responsiveness that we enjoyed wearing. It helps that, as a Nate VanHook production, it looks great too. Some drew comparisons with DMX aesthetically when it came to that hexagonal structure — as fiends for trainers and runners with that technology, we weren’t fussed. Plus the technology is very different internally. Some people were on it immediately, but we guarantee that by next summer, more people will respect this one.
NIKE ZOOM STRUCTURE+ 18
The Nike Structure is the part of the Nike Running lines that eschewed gimmicks in favour of support and no-frills performance. Recent instalments had been super functional (the GYAKUSOU line including the 14 and 15 was a testament to it being one of Jun’s favourites), but since its debut as an object of desire that superseded the mighty Stab, the shoe got a little dowdy. Then this happened. The Structure 18 is a superior redux, with the tri-density Dynamic Support, that crash rail on the medial side of the sole and a vaguely Flyknit looking Engineered Mesh upper. It’s good to see a workhorse like this model still having some Seabiscuit capabilities. Either as retail or as a NIKEiD option, this was the standout from a good year for Nike’s longer running franchises.
NIKE FLYKNIT LUNAR II
The original Nike Flyknit Lunar was an accessible entry point into the minimalism and racer-led nature of the early Flyknit creations (with Lunarlon kept for some ultra scarce HTM editions), with the rainbow coloured version blowing up in 2013. The Flyknit Lunar 2 is a better shoe, because it has its own identity and feels a little less like some glorious tech slipper and more like something that could really perform. With more grip and more support, the triangular pattern on the upper gave this model some serious scope for unique colourways. This women’s edition with a Phoenix Suns style combination was a standout.
AIR JORDAN I ‘GYM RED’
We liked the fact the materials were decent on this rare case of a non-OG colourway on this model that really, really worked. Hard to find in the States and not as widely distributed as some other Jordans this year, we were happy to add these to the shoe stacks. It’s not in 2014’s elite, but a less obvious makeup of a classic Jordan that doesn’t disrespect an iconic silhouette is always something to celebrate.
ADIDAS CONSORTIUM ‘FALL OF THE WALL’ ZX 8000
We’ve been taking about concepts a lot here, but here’s a case study in doing it well — it’s not about just spotting some old building and jacking the colours because the deadline is looming, giving an SMU a pet name to keep lazy bloggers happy or haplessly trying to weld a narrative to a shoe. The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago and the ZX 8000 was popular in Germany back then. That makes this shoe relevant to the celebrations. Released 25 years to that historical day, three makeups matched three Berlin Wall checkpoints and were made in Germany. We loved the Checkpoint Bravo edition (with the checkpoint having the aqua and yellow of the OG 8000 in the mix amid the pink) colourway the most. Brilliant idea and a fitting tribute that could have been distasteful, but was pretty damned respectful to the wall’s legacy.
It was a toss up between these and the Huarache Light reissue. It stole its spot because the Light has been near-slaughtered through overkill. The Nike Internationalist has been re-released before and we’re sure we’ve seen this colourway drop before as a retro. But some reissues were weak and we’ve been teased with the blue and yellow on other models time and time again (it was well applied to the Epic, another Mark Parker production), but then this old favourite hit the shelves in January alongside a Lunar remake we’ve already forgotten about.. Resurrecting the spirit of 1982 and the might of Brian from the Breakfast Club, British b-boys, dads who ran back in the day and terrace types know why this one matters.
NIKE & FRAGMENT DESIGN SOCK DART
The Sock Dart was always an HTM production. It was just never branded as such. Appearing out of nowhere on Footpatrol’s shelves ten years ago, it made its appearance after the Genealogy of Free celebrations with some fragment design colourways via Hiroshi Fujiwara. The perfect shoe for a generation of pinrollers found a wider audience this time (especially in the blog era when nothing is a surprise), but numbers were so low that it was still out of reach for many. Very ahead of its time and still relevant in its minimal, comfort-driven design.