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Written by Nice Kicks Staff Lead Art by @KICKMOJI
2016, it’s been an interesting one. While each year seems to bring more and more sneaker releases, this past year was no different as seemingly every weekend had one coveted drop and a handful of worthwhile wears. So, when it’s all said and done what were the best shoes to come out in ’16? The Nice Kicks staff has made our picks in the latest #NK50. Check ’em out below and let us know on social and in the comments your favorite shoes of the year.
50. Air Jordan 4 White/Cement
In 2012, the Air Jordan 4 returned for the first since 1999 with a white upper and grey accents. The catch? Jumpman heel tagging and a “Tech Grey” hue that was maybe more modern than “Cement” but simply worse in the eyes of OGs. A classic case of close but not quite. In 2016, Jordan Brand did the right thing with the proper Air Jordan 4 White/Cement release.
Dropping on All-Star Weekend and restocking to really no remorse on a handful of occasions, the ’89 classic was available for all in its purest form and wearable condition. While Pinnacle pairs on the same silo were a solid stunt and perhaps a preview of the future of JB, the past still proves to be the best application on the model Mike made fly that both hardwood heads and fresh fashionables still soar in. – Ian Stonebrook
49. Air Jordan 12 “The Master”
There’s endless subjectivity when discussing the best of the best pertaining to a shoe as visible as the Air Jordan 12 was in 2016. But “The Master” edition, on its face, embodies everything that great retros holistically brought to this year in sneakers. Blending great historical context with modern contemporary material usage, “The Master” seamlessly incorporated fashion’s most dominate theme, monotone, through adoring tumbled leather basking in a bold noir sensibility. Yet maybe even more important than that was the all-encompassing “Poster” campaign that cradled the shoe. Reaching back to Jordan’s vintage posters for inspiration was a genius stroke from Jordan Brand, arguably the better of the “Alternate” and “Dunk From Above” offerings, respectively. – Darren Griffin
48. Nike Air Force 1 “Linen”
Rewind the clock 15 years and times were very different for sneakers. Below are staples in today’s sneaker world today that didn’t exist when the “Linen” Air Force 1s released in Japan:
– Sneaker Blogs – Online Consignment Shops – Camera Phones – Social Media – Google Translator – “Air Force 1s” by Nelly
The Nike Air Force 1 “Linen” became a highly sought after shoe long before we had any of the tools to discover or chase the shoes. It was one of the first underground sneaker legends that had people asking “Where and how did you get those?” that crossed the globe. – Matt Halfhill
47. Concepts x New Balance 998
Year in and year out, Concepts and New Balance almost surgically churn out one of the best sneakers of the year. 2016 was no exception and quite possibly one of their best since the “Kennedy” back in 2011. The New Balance 998 from the “City Rivalry” pack was an ode to the Boston Red Sox and their time-honored duel with the New York Yankees. There’s a duality here that makes this collaboration exceptional aside from just great materials and aesthetics. America’s greatest pastime, baseball, is often defined by moments that act in conjunction with rivalries. Sneakers, too, are represented not only the product, but the forces working together or in an adversarial capacity to elevate the culture. So while looking at this collaboration and more importantly, glancing past it, it speaks to the stories we tell that narrate the history of the culture. There’s a cleverness here that shouldn’t be overlooked. – Darren Griffin
46. Solefly x Air Jordan 16
2016 — the year Jordan Brand dropped a “South Beach” 16? It sounds silly, but it actually worked on this Solefly style. In a year marked by odd occurrences and rapidly radical trends, the combination of a LeBron-laden colorway on a retirement-era retro may seem out of action, but it made a splash in the midst of it all by dropping during Art Basel. As the star-studded attraction looks to steal the steeze from Fashion Week or SXSW, the shoe may register to some as party, to others as parody, but in true artistic fashion the Florida shop took a risk by playing with a pop culture phenomenon, using an unlikely canvas and stripping the piece’s obvious shine. If that’s not enough to convince you these are actually high brow, well hey, Quavo has a pair! – Ian Stonebrook
45. adidas FutureCraft 3D
You’re looking at innovation at its finest right here. On December 15th adidas released their first 3D printed sneaker to the public. Not only was this shoe created for optimum level of performance, but it’s aesthetically pleasing as well. The FutureCraft 3D is our introduction into what the future of sneakers will look like as one day you’ll be able to walk into a store, get your feet scanned, and have a shoe that was 3D printed to specifically fit your individual footprint. Retailing for $333, adidas saw their futuristic shoe sell out in minutes and rise in resale value to over $2,000. Technology, aesthetics and hype earned this shoe its spot on this list for sure. – Ray P.
44. Under Armour Curry “Back to Back” Pack
Under Armour hasn’t exactly had a steady flow of energy launches highly coveted by collectors, but when they have, the storytelling has surrounded an iconic moment in sport. After being named the first-ever unanimous league MVP, it only made sense to package Stephen Curry’s second signature alongside his first, which he also won MVP in. The ensuing ?Back 2 Back? Pack featured accents of trophy gold throughout, along with sharp fonts and graphic icons to celebrate Curry’s rise through the league and accomplishments. – Nick DePaula
43. Air Jordan 12 “Wings”
Jordan Brand brought back the Air Jordan 12 in a way we’ve never seen before. Our beloved “Playoff” motif was blessed with gold accents reminiscent of DMP Air Jordans. But there was a catch! It was limited to only 12,000 pairs worldwide. Adding to the madness,?the sneaker world lost its mind when finding out the black layer on the upper wears off to eventually reveal a golden winged graphic. The Air Jordan 12 “Wings”?are beyond beautiful on foot, limited and had secret detailing. What more could you want from a release? So dope! – Ray P.
42. Rihanna x PUMA Suede Creeper
There was a time not long ago when only sports figures had the type of shoe deal Rihanna has with PUMA. More specifically, women removed from the industry were not in similar positions of power. That, in and of itself, is a feat of strength and empowered gender role reversal. Then there’s the actual product output, which smartly reworks a classic already within the current brand layout and on the minds and feet of sneakerheads. The Suede, modernized with plush suede and the now famous Creeper sole, by many estimations is the retail story of the year. A case that’s very difficult to argue. But viewing this from a wider lens says more about where sneaker culture is headed than it does about what people are buying. Brands are no longer scared to place their confidence and dollars behind someone of any gender, race, or background. Rihanna can sell sneakers just as well as she sings popular music. A shift in thinking from a brand perspective made this possible. A chance was all it took. – Darren Griffin
41. Kith x adidas Tubular Doom
Kicking off the adidas Consortium ?World Tour? of twelve collaborations throughout 2016, Kith debuted the newest addition to the Tubular family with a timely take on the new Doom in varying shades of gray and anthracite. The shoe’s sock collar and fully knitted upper was perfectly styled alongside joggers and fitted sweats, making the Tubular Doom one of the more beloved styles of adidas Original’s ever-evolving Tubular franchise. – Nick DePaula