words // Zack Schlemmer
It’s hard to believe that 2011 is now three years in the past. Some of the models in this list seem like they just released last week. I guess time flies when you’re collecting shoes.
We’re nearing the end of our Sole Decade’s best-of-the-year retrospectives, but the classic models and new innovations keep right on coming with this look back at the top sneakers of 2011.
10. Nike LeBron 9
LeBron fans are going to hate us for placing this shoe all the way down at #10, but in our opinion, this shoe just didn't compare to some of his most beloved models. It wasn't the best performer on court (but at least LeBron wore them) and wasn't the most memorable LBJ signature when it came to looks, either. That all being said, the 9 still sold huge numbers, and with awesome colorways like the “China” and All Star editions, it’s definitely worthy of breaking into the top ten of 2011.
9. Air Jordan 2011
Following the see-through Air Jordan 2010, Jordan Brand got back on track with 2011’s game shoe. The Air Jordan 2011 featured unique textured premium leather on the outside, and your choice of interchangeable Explosive (Air) or Quick (Zoom Air) cushioned insoles for the Air Jordan’s usual blend of performance and luxury. It was maybe a bit too reminiscent of the Air Jordan XI, but hey, that’s the greatest basketball shoe ever, so we’ll let it slide.
8. Nike SB Koston 1
After long runs with eS and Lakai, Eric Koston made the leap to Nike, where he promptly received his own signature model with the Swoosh. The Koston 1’s use of a drop-in Lunarlon insole was the first in the current industry trend of hidden technology for skate shoes. Its minimalist design looked pretty damn good, too.
7. Concepts x New Balance 999 “Kennedy”
Concepts did it big in 2011 with what is still one of their most popular collabs today, the New Balance 999 “Kennedy”. It seems that every boutique is now putting their own local stories onto collabs, and they can thank Concepts for trailblazing that practice with this sailing themed 999 in honor of John F. Kennedy.
6. Ronnie Fieg x ASICS Gel-Lyte III “Salmon Toes”
Along with Concepts, another East Coast collab heavyweight had one of their most popular shoes ever in 2011 with the “Salmon Toe” ASICS Gel-Lyte III by Ronnie Fieg and the Kith crew. The now iconic color block for the Gel-Lyte III vaulted Ronnie and retro ASICS in general to the next level—and the hype hasn’t died down since.
5. Nike Zoom Kobe 6
The “Grinch” Kobe 6 actually debuted in 2010 and that colorway was too good to leave out of that year’s list, but it was officially 2011’s Kobe shoe, so it makes this one as well. Although not much different from the previous two low-top Kobe models, the sheer volume of pairs found on the court - even still today - make it as important as any shoe released in 2011.
4. Nike Free Run+ 2
Whether or not Free technology is actually that great for running comes down to a personal preference—that’s another story. But the Free Run+ 2 took the casual world by storm in 2011, as everyone from trendsetters to your grandma seemed to be rocking a pair of these cool and comfy kicks. Now with suede, woven and Sneakerboot iterations from Nike Sportswear, this model seems like it may never go out of production.
3. Nike Zoom KD IV
While the first three models were good performers on the court and easy on your wallet, Kevin Durant’s sneaker line never really took off until this fourth version came along, and had everyone lusting over perfectly executed themed colorways like the Nerfs and Weathermans. The KD IV will definitely go down as one of the most iconic models in the last ten years for Nike Basketball.
2. adidas Crazy Light
After years toiling in virtual obscurity for a few years, adidas Basketball finally got back in the game in 2011 with the Crazy Light. As its name implies, it was indeed crazy light, weighing in at just under 10 ounces -- 9.8 to be exact. Not only was it the lightest basketball shoe ever, it did so without sacrificing stability, cushioning and overall performance. It’s not audacious to say this is the greatest adidas basketball shoe of all time.
1. Nike Mag
No other shoe could be #1 for 2011. In perhaps the greatest production of sneaker history, Nike created the fictional sneaker from Back to the Future Pt. II and auctioned the extremely limited number of 1500 pairs off on eBay, with all proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. They may not have had power laces, but that didn’t stop people from spending thousands of dollars on every single pair.