The Sole Collector staff typically breaks down our favorite release of each month, but for December, we’re taking a look back on the year as a whole. Each member of our team has examined the year and determined our three favorite sneakers of 2016. Read on to see our picks.
Sole Collector Editors Pick the Best Sneakers of 2016
The Sole Collector staff breaks down their favorites.
Gerald Flores, Editor-in-Chief
3. Adidas Ultra Boost Uncaged
Without a doubt, the Adidas Ultra Boost was the best shoe of 2015. You could even say that the shoe's "S curve" in the heel spawned a new wave of silhouettes for Adi running like the Cosmic Boost and Alpha Bounce. With the Uncaged Ultra Boost, Adidas played off of what a few people were already doing with their pairs: cutting off the cages and rocking the sneaker with loose laces. The Ultra Boost Uncaged was a clever way to give the sneaker a fresh take and a second life, yet still not compromise all the elements that made the original great in the first place.
2. Gyakusou x Nike LunarEpic Flyknit
I was instantly blown away when I first saw the Nike LunarEpic. The built in compression around the ankle, the new cushioning platform, and the sleek use of Flyknit made this sneaker an instant cop. But, what took it a step further was the Gyakusou x NikeLab version in the red/sequoia colorway. It was not only my favorite shoe of the month that it came out, but ended up being one of my favorite sneakers of the whole year.
1. Air Jordan 3 Retro "True Blue"
If you would've told me two years ago that an OG colorway of the Air Jordan 3 was going to come back out with "Nike Air" on the back I would've immediately been prepping myself to catch an L and have to pay reseller prices. Fortunately, the good folks at Champs Sports hooked it up, but weeks after its release not only were full size runs left, they were even hitting clearance pricing. What a glorious time for the Air Jordan purist.
Brendan Dunne, News Editor
3. LunarEpic Flyknit Low "Unlimited"
How kind will history be to 2016's wave of sock sneakers using knitted collars that redefined the real estate of sneakers on the foot? I'm still not sure I'm totally sold on them myself, with models like the Nike LunarEpic Flyknit presenting something of a challenge to the wearer not committed to funny style jogger pants—something I mostly avoid. Still, that shoe was easily the best new Flyknit silhouette this year and deserves a nod in a "best of" in some form. Ironically, its apex came at the Low, the cut-down version without the collar, which made it much easier to wear casually. Nike's Olympic crop of footwear was a bit disappointing in 2016, but this rainbow "Unlimited" style was the best of them for me, and a shoe I logged plenty of miles in. This one gets bonus points too for being a populist model, and one that was actually on sale regularly after its release.
2. Acronym x Nike Air Presto Mid
Few shoes were as unanimously celebrated this year as the Acronym x Nike Air Presto—I even considered omitting it from this list since the model's already got a spot on seemingly every other year end footwear list, but it really is that good. On paper, taking a retro running shoe and switching up its shape and adding zippers and extra fasteners sounds like a terrible idea, but Acronym's Errolson Hugh really came through on this one. The shoe's involved design matches Acronym's in-house output and feels like suitable dystopian footwear for the hellish future that's almost certainly right around the corner. Nike also deserves a nod for taking the collaboration to the next level by integrating Errolson and Acronym into its ACG line.
1. Nike Hyperadapt
I am not ready to spend $720 on a pair of sneakers. Obsessed as I am, I just can't bring myself to do it. But I certainly thought about it on the Nike Hyperdadapt, this year's most exciting sneaker from a tech standpoint. The self-lacing shoe played well with the 2016 release of Marty McFly's Mag, and Nike managed to present separate storylines for them despite the design overlap. It's ostentatious with those LED soles and maybe not the most practical pair of shoes just yet, but looks to be a big indicator of where Nike wants to bring sportswear design in the years to come. I suspect that, for many, the model just doesn't connect and I get it—this is a sneaker that must be experienced to be appreciated. But once you hear the whir of the motor, see the illuminating soles, and feel the reacting lacing coming alive as soon as the shoe senses pressure in the heel, it all makes sense.
Zac Dubasik, Managing Editor
3. Nike Kyrie 2 "Parade"
The Nike Kyrie 2 was a rare model for me in the sense that even though it came out in a million colorways, most of them were actually pretty good. A few were great. And one left a truly lasting impression. Whenever I think about the Cavs’ epic championship parade, I’ll be reminded of the colorway that Kyrie debuted that day, and the career defining shot that helped make that parade a reality.
2. Acronym x Nike Air Presto Mid
I’ve grown to expect, and even accept, that I’m just not going to be able cop limited releases online. So I typically don’t even bother trying to grab these exclusive drops. But the Acronym Presto was a shoe I just had to have. The standard Presto is one of my all-time favorite sneakers, and this update made it different enough to stand as a shoe of its own, without ruining the original. It was so good that it made trying and failing to cop hurt that much worse when I inevitably struck out—even though I knew it was coming.
1. Nike LeBron Soldier 10 iD "Championship"
As a basketball fan that’s spent my entire life in northeast Ohio, it's hard to imagine a sneaker that could have much more meaning than the one worn by LeBron James when he brought Cleveland its first NBA Championship. Although I’m actually a Pistons fan, and have watched them win multiple rings, seeing the home team finally take the title is something I’ll never forget. The Soldier 10 may have been a great looking shoe, but let’s be honest—it didn’t really matter which shoe he wore, or what it looked like. Replace any sneaker in the world on James’ feet as he blocked Andre Iguodala’s layup in the waning moments of Game 7, and I would have put it at #1 just as fast.
Brandon Richard, Senior Writer
3. Reebok Hall of Fame Pack
As a young basketball fan growing up in the '90s, I never would have imagined that my two favorite players, Shaquille O'Neal and Allen Iverson, would go into the Hall of Fame together. On the day of the ceremony Reebok surprised fans by releasing a limited edition sneaker pack for its two basketball icons. Made with metallic-finished Italian Pelligrini leather, both shoes were well worth the wait and served as fitting tributes to the new Hall of Famers.
2. Nike LeBron Soldier 10 iD "Championship"
It's been a rough few years for the Nike LeBron line design-wise, but LeBron James managed to put together the greatest moment of his career to date while wearing his best sneaker in years. Not so settled into the LeBron 13 Elite, James helped cap off the Cavs' improbable 3-1 Finals comeback in this championship-flavored black and gold colorway, now a piece of history in addition to just being a great looking shoe.
1. Nike Air Trainer SC High Atlanta Olympics
The 1996 Olympics was a spectacular event packed with legendary moments that have stuck with me for the past 20 years. From Ali lighting the torch, to Michael Johnson's gold shoes, to Kerri Strug landing her vault on one foot, Atlanta was the scene of so many performances that inspired the younger me. During this year's Olympics, Nike took a stroll down memory lane with a few sneaker releases in tribute to what took place in '96. Among them, this amazing take on the Air Trainer SC High, styled in the colors of the Atlanta Games' official logo. I didn't get that "must-have" feeling about a lot of releases this year, but there was never any doubt about this pair.
Rich Lopez, Release Dates Manager
3. Nike Hyperadapt
Simply put, the Nike Hyperadapt 1.0 is the future of footwear. And as of now, it is the most technologically advanced sneaker that Nike has ever created. The amount of research and design that went into making an auto-lacing sneaker a reality is beyond impressive, and the convergence of technology and footwear at this integrated of a level is truly exciting. As a 1.0 product, there are several things that Nike can, and will, improve on. But with that said, as a 1.0 product, the sneaker is amazing.
2. Adidas HU NMD x Pharrell Williams "Black"
The Adidas NMD could easily walk away with the title for sneaker of the year, but truth be told, I'm not a fan of the sneaker at all. That isn't to say that it isn't a good sneaker and that I can't appreciate it, but it's just not for me. With that said, Pharrell's HU NMD rendition of the popular sneaker is, in my opinion, one of the best sneakers of the year. The sneaker is minimal yet futuristic—the TPU cage and laces combo allows the sneaker to be styled in different ways, and of course with a Boost midsole you know the sneaker is comfortable. All of the colors that released from this collaboration are great to me, but the "Black" colorway stands out above the rest with its tonal "Human Species" call out, contrasting yellow laces, and white Boost. Pharrell and Adidas killed this one.
1. Air Jordan 4 Retro "White Cement"
I've been highly critical of Jordan Brand's "Nike Air" collection. While I completely welcome the return of the iconic branding, I've felt that Jordan has missed the mark with most of its Nike Air-clad sneakers. It seemed like the brand was always one colorway away from the sneaker that I actually wanted. I would've greatly preferred "Black Cement" 3s, "Infrared" 6s, and "Fire Red" 5s over the colorways that ended up releasing. With the "White Cement" Air Jordan 4 though, I feel Jordan got it right. You could argue that the "Black Cement" pair is the "right" colorway here, but the "White Cement" colorway is historically important to the Air Jordan line and helped catapult Air Jordans into the popular consciousness via Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing." Beyond all that, the white, black, and black-speckled cement grey is just a beautiful sight. And that Nike Air hit? Perfect.
Brennan Hiro Williams, Social Media Editor
3. Adidas AlphaBounce
Adidas had another crossover hit with the AlphaBounce. A silhouette reminiscent of the Yeezy 350 and Ultra Boost, the AlphaBounce continued Adidas' push for an identity beyond Three Stripes and Trefoils. At $100, it was great alternative to the previously mentioned, always-sold-out models, with Bounce foam and an intriguing Forged Mesh upper subbing in for Boost and Primeknit.
2. Adidas ACE+ 16 PureControl Ultra Boost
Adidas' biggest sport is soccer. Its biggest stars are soccer players. So it's about damned time that the brand combined its biggest strength with its modern lifestyle product. Enter the ACE+ 16 PureControl Ultra Boost, a hybrid of the Paul Pogba-led soccer boot and the ever-present Ultra Boost running shoe. Like its on-pitch counterpart, the Ultra Boost version featured a laceless Primeknit upper with a mid-height sock collar. If you're a fan of Ultra Boost Uncaged or NMD CS1 (and it appears that a lot of you are), these were a no-brainer.
1. Nike Kyrie 2 "Ky-Rispy Kreme"
Nike dropped what now goes down as the most unexpected collaboration of 2016, working with Krispy Kreme on a special Kyrie 2 colorway and energy marketing tour. While Kyrie Irving should have probably stayed away from Krispy Kreme's sugar-packed donuts during his NBA Championship run (though it didn't seem to affect him), the "Ky-Rispy Kremes" were too fun not to celebrate. Best of all, sneakerheads unable to pick up "Ky-Rispy Kremes" directly from Nike's special truck could make their own pair on NIKEiD.