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    The Best Sneakers of 2021

    Written By

    Pete Michael



    As we head towards the end of the calendar year, the conversation always turns towards the best sneakers of the year. Faced with uncertainty at the beginning of 2021, sneaker brands and fans alike we’re not quite sure how the year would unfold. But despite the concerns, it’s turned about to be an absolute banger. So what are the Best Sneakers of 2021? It’s a tough task to sit and rank thousands of releases, but through much debate, in-fighting, and countless curse words, we got there.

    So what tops our Top Ten Sneakers of 2021? Check it out below.

    10. Salehe Bembury x Crocs Pollex Clog

    Release Date: December 14, 2021

    Where to Buy:

    Can we call this a sneaker? Its impact was that big that it couldn’t not be included. Salehe’s terrestrial take on this slip-on Croc has by far and large been the most anticipated Crocs collaboration ever, and it’s even got the most skeptical of the brand intrigued. With aftermarket prices already nearing the $1k mark, it’s safe to say that Salehe and Crocs will be back with more color schemes in 2022.

    9. New Balance 2002R Protection Pack

    Release Date: August 20, 2021

    Not a month goes by where the New Balance 2002R Protection Pack doesn’t pop up in our monthly wrap-up of best custom sneakers. The favored silhouettes have had a huge impact on creatives, and ultimately the 2002R, which has seen a resurgence in the market thanks in part to this three-pack of releases. One of the best of the year for New Balance, who arguably had the best year in sneakers full stop.

    8. OFF-WHITE x Nike Dunk Low “THE 50”

    Release Date: August 9, 2021

    Though any OFF-WHITE release’s success should come as no surprise, the late Virgil Abloh delivered one of the most courageous collaborations in sneaker history; 50 pairs of Nike dunks, 48 of which were almost identical from afar. When word of this broke, there were skeptics in every corner — us included — but how the pairs were released was akin to that of opening a pack of baseball cards; The excitement to see which pair you picked up is s feeling we haven’t had in footwear all-too-often, and it was a breath of fresh air. Add to that, the pairs lent themselves to the user’s creativity, with the aftermath of customized pairs (like the one pictured above) making this one of the most rousing run of release in recent times.

    7. Aime Leon Dore x New Balance 550

    Release Date: April 16, 2021

    Image: @arab_lincoln

    Last year’s inaugural New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore “International Friendship Through Basketball” four-pack was only just the beginning for ALD, with 2021’s flow-on releases some of the best of the year in all of footwear. Their 993 Beef and Broccoli release were one of the toughest omissions of this list — but this 550 had to be included in the lineup. It hit every trend on the head of the nail, bringing aged-look aesthetics to an 80s hoop shoe,

    6. UNDEFEATED x Nike Kobe 5 “Hall of Fame”

    Release Date: May 12th/15th, 2021

    The tearjerker of the year award goes to Kobe Bryant’s posthumous induction to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Though he was a certainty to get in first ballot regardless of his passing, the event held all the more significance. Prior to the tragic events of January 26th, 2020, long-time collaborators and LA locals UNDEFEATED had plans to honor the Mamba with a special-edition sneaker: the Nike Kobe 5 “Hall of Fame”. Bryant’s death made the tribute sneaker all the more special, but despite the extra weighting, the pair would have made this list regardless.

    5. adidas YEEZY 450

    Release Date: March 6th, 2021
    Restock Date: September 2021

    Kanye’s approach to designing sneakers is abstract, to say the least. Some hit, while others miss, but all of them are always subject to some heated debates. The YEEZY 450 is not exempt from both sides of the argument, but the fact that people are still talking about it is reason enough to include it in this list of Top Ten Sneakers of 2021. Aside from that, the design is something that will push the entire industry forward, though whether you agree with its direction is another thing.

    4. Patta x Nike Air Max 1

    Release Date: October 15, 2021

    Pardon the awful pun, but these made a big wave in the scene at the back-end of 2021, with not one, not, two, but four releases. You shouldn’t be surprised that these hit the top five, considering that almost every Patta x Nike Air Max 1 in history has been one of the top releases in their respective years. Our pick? These Monarchs, followed closely by the black and white jawn.

    3. Air Jordan 1 High OG “University Blue”

    Release Date: March 6th, 2021

    Though there was no March Madness tournament this year, the month itself was, with almost every sneakerhead in both hemispheres scrambling to secure a pair of these beauties. The supple suede uppers against a tumbled leather base in that beautiful shade of blue? Boy, what a shoe. And it looks good in every pastel hue, too, as we’ve trialed in our Sneaker Concept Lab (here’s hoping we get more colorways in this construct soon!)

    2. Nike SB Dunk Low “What The P-Rod”

    Release Date: May 24th, 2021

    A lot of stars have aligned for Nike SB and their Dunk variants over the past 18 months, and that phrase can be taken quite literally for their best effort of the year: the Nike SB Dunk Low “What The P-Rod”. Honoring the 17-year link between Nike SB and Paul Rodriguez, their first signature skater, the two delivered something homage-packed on more than one level. As one of the most decorated pro skaters in history, P-Rod has been privy to some pretty impressive Dunk colorways. This pair honors several of these, and does so in a way that honors the brand’s most celebrated design: the “What The”. The result is a mismatched mash-up that tells the story of Rodriguez’s Nike history from 2005’s “J-Rod” all the way up to 2020’s boxing-inspired SB Dunk High. Though it won’t stand up anywhere near the original’s lofty mantle, it’s definitely up there in the best-of conversation of Nike SB Dunks of the past five-or-so years.

    1. A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 3 “Raised By Women”

    Release Date: April 28th, 2021

    A Ma Maniere has retailer has found itself at the end of some of the most desirable footwear collaborations of the past few years. It’s not surprising, given James Whitner’s impeccable eye for details and a desire to tell crucial and timely stories. Their “Raised By Women” Air Jordan 3 from April this year has already been hailed sneaker of the year by a fair margin, with the pair’s story beaming and an execution that’s beyond belief. It once again highlights the desire for premium, high-end collaborations, as well as meaningful stories and most importantly, inclusivity.

    Honorable mentions:
    Author:Pete MichaelDate:2021.12.19Tags:

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