October 1, 2012 BY Aaron Kr.
This week, SN is teaming up with online sneaker haven, Sneakerpedia, to give our readers a look into some of our staff’s all-time favorite shoes. We’ll each be doing a Top 20 list counting down some of the most beloved treasures in our personal collections. I’m up first and I admit, I’m not sure that I can really say that these are my 20 favorite sneakers ever, but this is definitely somewhere in the ballpark. If I sat down to make this list in a month or a year, it might look a little different, but these are twenty that I feel particularly strong about right now and fit the criteria of being either out in the current rotation or at least easily accessible.
You won’t find Yeezy’s or the latest Foamposite heat on my list. There are no PE’s, scarce SB Dunks and not even too many Jordans or basketball shoes for that matter, so if that turns you off, you should probably stop reading. You aren’t about to see the 20 rarest, most expensive or most envy-provoking shoes that I own, because as Jay-Z once said, “When I rock jewels, it ain’t to impress you.” These are 20 shoes that I unconditionally cherish for whatever the reason, all hoopla and hypebeastery aside. As a lifelong sneaker connoisseur, my philosophy has always been simple and I’d encourage it to one and all: I wear what I like and I don’t worry what anyone else thinks about it. And for me, what I like are the classics. For the most part, I like my sneakers how I like my music and movies – from the late 80’s and early 90’s – a theme that will unsubtly play out in the selections found below with no apologies.
I think a big part of the obsession with sneakers for a lot of us is trying to chase down all the shoes we wanted or had as kids and there’s nothing like successfully hunting down (or waiting out) the one(s) that got away. It’s because of that, I’m usually not nearly as worried about the newest super-limited edition collab or House of Hoops exclusive hyperstrike as I am about the re-release of tried and true classic runners and trainers in OG colorways. Guess I’m a purist, but you can’t help what you love. In a lot of ways, I’m very much stuck in the past, but it feels right to me and I think I’m okay with it.
We’ve been waiting for an excuse to do something like this for a while, so we really had some fun with it and hope that you do too. Check back during the week as other members of the SN team share their Top 20 lists, and you can get in on the fun too by uploading your own goodies to Sneakerpedia for all to see. Continue on to check out the twenty sneakers I chose from my collection and the reasons why, and please feel free to hate on my list in the comments below.
20- Nike Air Lava Dome
Weirdly, awesomely awkward in its design, the Lava Dome doesn’t look quite right, but maybe that’s what’s so right about it. From the extended mudguard overlay to the rear-positioned Swoosh, it all comes together like a dream when combined with the rough suede/heavy-duty mesh makeup and battle-ready outsole. Since its birth way back in 1981, the Lava Dome has been “rugged fresh” at its very best and I’m all over it whenever a clean new colorway pops up. Curiously, I don’t meet many people who seem to feel the same way as I do for the shoe as further evidenced by the back-up pair of these beauties that I picked up at a Nike outlet for $35 a few months back. Works for me. As long as Nike keeps putting them out, I’m gonna keep buying them.
19- Vans Half Cab
Back in my early to mid 90’s skateboarding days, an older friend was kind enough to school me to the limited amount of things I was ever able to conquer on a board. He always wore these beat up Half Cabs, and at the time, I didn’t think much of them. I was way more interested in the Etnies Sal Barbier’s with the “23” Jordan nod stitched into the heel (sick!). Years later, I started to appreciate the Half Cab a little more and eventually picked up a pair out of nostalgia. I instantly fell in love with the shape of the shoe and have been on the look-out ever since. This burgundy/black pair from a few years back is one of my personal favorites, as well as the killer suede/gum Supreme collab pack.
18- Saucony Grid 9000
The Saucony Grid 9000 was recently brought out of hibernation and has quickly become one of my favorite sneakers to wear. In terms of both aesthetics and comfort, the Grid 9000 has everything I look for in a shoe and then some. It has a great shape and a very sleek tech look to it and the unique tongue design and dynamic midsole tooling put it over the top for me. Also doesn’t hurt that there has been no shortage of tasty colorways thanks to the recent sets by Packer Shoes and Bodega. Just another reminder of how many incredible early 90’s runners are just collecting dust in the archives of some of these brands when they could instead be killing it in today’s market if executed and re-introduced correctly. Get at me and we can talk about it.
17- Nike Air Trainer Max 91
The Air Trainer Max 91 is one of the most progressive shoe designs I’ve ever seen. It looks and feels superb on your feet and there have not been many color schemes in sneaker history as clean and memorable as this grey/maize pair. Everything comes together in perfect harmony on this shoe and the strap system and ribbed neoprene tongue add the type of extra touches that boost these into the upper echelon of sneaker greatness to me. Sadly, the Trainer Max 91 has historically been a victim of lackluster colorways aside from this masterpiece. As great as this shoe is, there has never been another version released that even comes close to capturing the magic of this one. All the more reason to treasure these I suppose.
16- Nike Air Max 120
I’ve always been into running shoes above all else, but usually my preferences lean towards clean suede/mesh makeups up of classic models. I’ve never gotten much into the more high-tech stuff and even my beloved Air Max category eventually moved outside of my comfort zone starting in the late 90’s. My mind is still wide open to Nike running shoes and the Air Max category and there have definitely been some scattered pick-ups over the years, but there have been few models in the last 10-15 years that have grabbed me like the early days of Air Max did.
For me, the Air Max 120 remains one of the last great hurrahs of the fruitful era of Nike Air Max shoes that I was completely obsessed with for the 10 years or so leading up to this shoe’s release in 1998. The 120 looks insane and I’d have to say that it’s one of my favorite Nike designs ever. I’d love to see a retro but shudder to think about it coming back with a Free sole or some equally offensive alternate Max unit.