Sneakerpedia x Sneaker News Editors’ “Grails”
Right around a month ago, Sneaker News teamed up with the world’s largest online sneaker collection, Sneakerpedia, in an effort to give you a little bit of background on the personal tastes of the folks who make this site tick. We whittled the most cherished sneakers in our personal collections down to individual top 20 lists, bringing you some background on why those sneakers meant so much to us. But of course, as every collector knows, on the flip side of all our rewarding conquests and acquisitions, there will always be the ones that got away.
This latest edition of our Sneakerpedia team-up is the tale of those models, the ones that we never got our hands on or that we had and may never find again. Mind you this isn’t necessarily a definitive list of our ‘grails’, but rather a compilation of our most personally lusted after releases from amongst the impressive Sneakerpedia selection. Stay with us after the jump for the Top 5 Sneakerpedia sneaker grail lists from our SN editors and let us know if you’ve got any in common with us in the comments below. If you didn’t see your personal favorites in here, head over to the Sneakerpedia archives to see what kind of long-lost heat people are holding onto and feel free to sign up to start uploading your own treasures now.
AARON KR’S TOP 5 SNEAKERPEDIA GRAILS
5. Nike Air Trainer Max 93
Not the flashiest selection from Nike’s cavernous archive of forgotten treasures, but the Air Trainer Max 93 deserves some recognition nonetheless. The shoe had a more traditional and simplistic design than some of its more technical Air Trainer predecessors, but its sleek silhouette and graceful lines more than made up for it. I’m usually not a big fan of the half Air bag look, but this midsole is a definite exception and helped the shoe’s appearance and comfort immeasurably. The Trainer Max 93 also holds some special significance in relation to my personal sneaker history as it was the shoe I wore the first day of my freshman year of high school – although not the one pictured here (which I definitely prefer), but the better known white/light grey/lavender colorway.
Photo: Josh Cole on Sneakerpedia
4. Nike Air Flight High
The Nike Air Flight High is another shoe that marks a notable milestone in my early days of sneaker obsession. It was the first shoe I ever owned that had a visible Air unit. The visible Nike Air bag is almost a given at this point and we take them for granted, but when the concept was first introduced in the late 80’s, the notion of a clear window in your shoe that was filled with this magical thing called “AIR” made it seem like we were only a matter of months away from flying cars and robot house servants. I remember taking my crispy white/royal blue Flight Highs out of the box and holding them up close to my eye so I could have the futile pleasure of watching t.v. through the sole of my shoe. “AIR” was quite the enticing novelty and it had me so intrigued that I eventually popped one of the bubbles with a sharpened pencil to see what would happen, thinking perhaps there would be a loud explosion or some sort of space age ooze or mist would leak out. To my disappointment, nothing much at all happened other than being stuck wearing a left shoe that hissed every time I took a step.
Photo: SNEAKERQUEEN on Sneakerpedia
3. Nike Mac Attack
Oh Nike Manor, why couldn’t you have turned out more like your father? Earlier this year, Nike Sportswear introduced the Manor, a new lifestyle model with a design that borrows heavily from John McEnroe’s 1984 signature tennis shoe, the Mac Attack. While the Swoosh-less, vulc-soled Manor looked halfway decent, it brought with it the appalling assumption that it may be the closest thing we’re gonna get to a re-relase of the original. Unlike pretty much all the other choices on this Top 5 list, this shoe could actually work well in today’s market in its original form. Note to Nike: There aren’t that many true timeless bangers left in the “never-been-retroed” arsenal, so I hope these are inching their way to the on-deck circle as we speak.
Photo: Josh Cole on Sneakerpedia
2. Nike Air Huarache International
When I first saw the original Air Huarache runner, it was love at first sight. It was the coolest, most futuristic shoe I had ever seen and I wanted a pair bad. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards for me at the time and I never got my hands on a pair until the retros in the early 2000’s. My consolation prize back then however, came a year later with the barely cared about Air Huarache International – a not quite as cool, but still pretty solid follow-up to the gamechanging original. The Huarache International didn’t quite pack the same wow-factor as the first version, but it still had the branded neoprene sockliner and a fantastic color scheme that made for a great-looking shoe when all was said and done. Aside from me and probably six other people out there, I doubt there’s any real demand for these to make a retro return any time soon, but I’d sure love to get my feet into a wearable pair come summertime.
Photo: Josh Cole on Sneakerpedia
1. Nike Air Tech Challenge IV
Back in the dark ages before the internet and sneaker blogs, there were only a handful of ways to get info on the latest releases. Before search engines satisfied all our fleeting curiosities, the most steady and reliable source of sneaker info was to vigilantly keep your eyes to the ground and check out people’s feet. To this day, I remember walking down the hall in school one morning behind someone wearing the Air Tech Challenge IV. All I could see was the color-splashed heels, but my mind was already blown. I had to know more, so I sped up the hallway and approached some kid I had never spoken to before to ask him what his shoes were and where I could find them. All he knew was that they were the new Agassi’s and now at least I had some info to build off when I called every sporting goods store in the county with no success.
That was the harsh reality of the cruelly fruitful early 90’s sneaker era. There was no such thing as a retro, so shoes came and went, and if you didn’t strike up a conversation with a stranger to ask about their shoes, you may have never seen them again or ever even known what you just saw. We have it pretty good now with the abundant availability of information on all our sneaker desires and queries, but what’s not so great is that this incredible shoe has still never been re-released and I’ve still never had them on my feet despite all these miraculous advancements in technology. Without a doubt, these are the number one target of my most wanted list and a candle will be burning in my Air Tech Challenge IV shrine until they’re mine.
Photo: Josh Cole on Sneakerpedia
JOHN KIM’S TOP 5 SNEAKERPEDIA GRAILS
5. Staple x Nike SB Dunk Low “Pigeon”
The release of the SB Dunk was one of the most notorious in history. Riots, cops, mass crowds – it was just an ugly storm of everything negative about a sneaker release, but unfortunately the Twitter RSVP, let alone Twitter, wasn’t around then. I loved these so much because I’m from the NYC area and this was designed for NYC, by an NYC dude. With today’s market value, I’ll probably never own a pair.
Photo: Mongol on Sneakerpedia
4. Nike Air Max 2 Light ’94
I’m a bit hesitant about OG Air Max sneakers because they’re so susceptible to deterioration. I could probably purchase a pair right now on eBay if I wanted to, but they’re certainly unwearable and closet space is beginning to get very, very scarce. The design on these are phenomenal and I was crazy about the multi-window Air Unit at the heel. It marked the point where Air Max went away from that ‘Retro’ look and dabbled in some off-the-wall designs.
Photo: Dylan Hughes on Sneakerpedia
3. Nike Air Max Tailwind “City Pack”
This is just a weird shoe that nobody really cares about. It’s just a spin-off of the Air Max Tailwind IV with the graphic of the NYC map on the upper. These were part of an unofficial pack that included Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toyko (I think). During our random “do you remember these” conversations in the Sneaker News office, I would bring this shoe up and nobody would be able to recall. A true eBay find that today, is almost untraceable.
Photo: kvegas on Sneakerpedia
2. Nike Lunar Woven Chukka
This is a shoe that I just completely slept on. I could’ve walked over to 21 Mercer, but these dropped during the Holiday season and there was just too much going on for me to get a pair. Now, I search for these on eBay every so often and over the last six months, there was just one pair in my size (I bid and lost). If you caught my personal Top 20, you’d understand why I love these so darn much.
Photo: kid_sneakerness on Sneakerpedia
1. Nike Air Max 1 “Kid Robot”
My Air Max 1 collection is pretty substantial, but this is the one shoe that has always eluded me. The packaging, the special insole, the Kid Robot logo on the heel – this was seriously one of my favorite shoes ever and I never had the proper funds to get them. These released when I was in college and the campout at Barney’s for these was only a few hours so had I been in NY, I might’ve had a pair in my hands.
AARON HOPE’S TOP 5 SNEAKERPEDIA GRAILS
5. Hanon x Reebok Alien Stomper ‘VCMP’
More sneakers tell stories than ever before, but few manage to intrigue like this super-limited collaboration between England’s most famous sneaker export and Scotland’s top supplier. Hanon’s ‘Visual CounterMeasures Project’ brought in other names from around the United Kingdom to issue a response to the growing prevalence of CCTV cameras throughout the islands, and they chose the Reebok Alien Stomper for its inborn sense of futuristic doom. The theme and its juxtaposition against the Plato quote that covers the still-online minisite remind us we create our futures in every moment, a reminder that this thinking man’s collabo stands alone with its philosophical lean. Only sixty pairs exist and finding them is harder than locating a DS Aliens laserdisc, and coupled with arguably the most intellectually demanding theme ever added to a sneaker release, there are many things I’d do to get these that I’d want to make sure aren’t being filmed.
Photo: Jivaldinho on Sneakerpedia
4. Air Jordan XIV “Oxide”
From an abstract story about personal freedom to a personal story about kicks I wore as a kid, we jump back ten years to the end of Michael Jordan’s days as a Chicago Bull. It was during the second three-peat that I achieved personal sneakerhead milestones by grabbing signature models in successive years, buying multiple colorways of a single style and un-DSing multiple ‘back to school’ pairs. I kept my 1999 OG ‘Indiglo’ Air Jordan XIVs on ice until late August and were they listed, those might have been tops on this list (keep reading for more on summer ‘99s Fourteens).
I feel a similar bond to the criminally underrated ‘Oxide’ AJ14, another of the increasingly rare class of un-Retroed original Air Jordans that, like the Indiglos, doesn’t get the respect it deserves in the non-Bulls canon. This would-be All-Star ’99 colorway released after the two White/Black-Varsity Red styles, and while I never owned the Oxy White/Black-Oxidized green edition myself, I did have the ‘Last Shots’ that dropped a little over a month later. The problem was, many of my friends had by this time caught the sneaker bug (though that spring’s AJ4 Retro was still over their heads) and also copped the Last Shots. This led me several times during what was left of the school year to swap with my buddy who was the only kid I ever knew who owned the Oxides, though hopefully Jordan Brand changes that soon.
Photo: Evanga on Sneakerpedia
3. Patta x Parra x Nike Air Max 1
Some sneakers are investment vehicles for us footwear fanatics, and the Patta x Parra x Nike Air Max 1 is one of those styles that continues to increase in value as we appreciate the aging process. Parra’s color combos are always eye-catching and his 2009 teamup with Patta on the Asics Gel Lyte Speed is probably one of the ‘00s most underrated collabos, but it took a more familiar silhouette, a growing mainstream appreciation for classic suede and mesh bangers and just a dash of chenille to make for Sneaker News’ #1 release of 2010. Maybe it’s fate, but there seems to be about the same amount of pairs on the market every time I build up the courage to drop four figures on a shoe I’m going to wear every chance I get, as disposable cash I’ve got when a size 12 is available for a reasonable price. So 2010’s top sneaker I still remember stepping outside the bounds of objectivity to describe as “One of the hottest ‘87s ever” continues to elude me, but if I could have everything I wanted, all the grails would already be mine!
2. Solebox x New Balance 1500 “Toothpaste”
You might look at this list and wonder how on earth 2010’s Sneaker of the Year and one of the more valuable Air Max 1s could come in second to a release patterned after something you’d spit down the drain, but take a closer look at one of several Solebox x New Balance 1500s, 2007’s ‘Toothpaste’ duo. I should start by mentioning that the 1500 has been my favorite New Bal silo for some time now (though the recent stateside 1600 resurrection has cast serious doubts moving forward), so I’m totally biased in thinking it’s the cream of the small ‘N’ crop. But take a look at these color schemes, how orange and teal are both neutral/wearable and quite eye-catching, how the gum sole arrived on the bleeding edge of a trend that’s been in full force for a few years now, and you realize that while I could have chosen any of Hikmet’s superb 1500s. The enduring freshness of these pairs means at some point I’m going to have to fork over four figures for the right to use the included toothbrushes to keep ‘em clean.
Photo: Truffa on Sneakerpedia
1. Air Jordan XIII Low Black/Blue
At the top of my list is another one that could have gone either way, so with the ‘Columbia Blue’ ‘sequel’ sufficiently obscure at this point to where no one has eveb uploaded a photo, the Air Jordan XIII Low in navy and black would make me happier than just about any currently off-limits sneaker. Lows are fairly rare in the Air Jordan Legacy and their Retros even less common, but it would be lovely to get these metal-Jumpmen’d Thirteens back in my rotation. I remember the leather toes on my first high school sneakers these being so plush just like the ‘Playoffs’ with which I closed out the eighth grade, and though the friend I mentioned above with the Oxide XIVs had the ‘Chutneys’, there was a distinct sense that he’d gotten them mostly to prevent conflicts and that mine was the superior choice. We only swapped XIII Lows once, and while I don’t regret it, I do feel a bit sad every time I think about tossing my outgrown and thoroughly trashed 10.5s. But that’s the kind of nostalgia that keeps my passion for sneakers strong some twenty-three years after I decided I had to have those shoes with the pump on the tongue, and proof that the stories that keep us connected to the sneakerhead world only start with a particular release’s publicized theme.
BRENDAN DUNNE’S TOP 5 SNEAKERPEDIA GRAILS
5. Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Stussy’
This spot could be occupied by any number of Nike SB Dunk Low releases from the previous decade, the ‘Flash’ from 2002 and the ‘Vamp’ from 2003 to name a few. But the pair manages to one-up that kind of competition in my mind though thanks to the Stussy connection. 2005 was obviously a huge year for SB Dunks in general and I definitely can’t fault anyone for putting the ‘Tiffany’ above this pair, but to me the longer standing historical significance of Stussy and their kinda conservative approach to the collab realm put these on top. Right up there with the DQM ‘Bacon’ Air Max 90 as far as all time food-inspired Nike releases.
Photo: kid_sneakerness on Sneakerpedia
4. Nike Air Max 90 ‘Tongue N Cheek’
Dizzee Rascal’s first album came out the summer before my freshman year of high school and I was sort of obsessed with his output for many years after that. Everything about Boy in da Corner was so abrasive and weird and hard to decipher, plus the fact that he was only 18 when it released gave him this sort of Nas like aura to me. I took road trips multiple times across several states to see him, had a fanboy heart attack when he linked up with Def Jux (which unfortunately only led to them putting out the US printing of Maths & English if I recall correctly), and still regard his music as pretty important to my youth. But anyways…the sneakers. We all know Ben Drury knows what to do with an Air Max silhouette, and these had that cool gloomy London feel to them-a feel that was totally flipped when the flash is on thanks to the crazy 3M hits. Between the Dizzee connection and the masterfully executed colorway I had to have these, but as we all know that wasn’t exactly an easy task at their 2009 release. Also pretty high up in terms of grail status for me are the related Dirtee Stank editions of the Nike Air 180 and Nike Air Force 1 Low.
Photo: Kish Kash on Sneakerpedia
3. Dave White x Nike Air Max 1 ‘Neon’
For me the Dave White x Nike Air Max 1 ‘Neon’ is right up there with the various creations from atmos, Stash, and the like in terms of all time great Nike Air Max collabs. Generally I’m not super keen on the idea of porting over colorways as I think it’s just that much more impressive wen you can make a new palette speak for itself and establish its own lane but these things are just too hard to deny. It’s the sort of thing you spend hours on Nike iD trying to replicate that never quite looks right. Obviously Dave White had way more than Nike iD can offer at his disposal and came up with a couple of Nike Air Max 95 ‘Neon’ inspired bangers for Size?, this pair being at the top of the heap in my opinion. What makes these even more desirable is how rare it is that they ever pop up, let alone in a size even close to mine.
Photo: Mayhem on Sneakerpedia
2. Nike SB Dunk High ‘MF Doom’
This pair occupies a similar space as the ‘Tongue N Cheek’ Nike Air Max 90s as far as being a sneaker collab whipped up with a rapper that I grew up on. As soon as I discovered Doom everything just spiraled into this weird little quest of tracking down his various releases and connecting the dots between his personas. I bought multiple copies of the Special Herbs box set, both the 2004 and 2007 versions of Mm.. Food, but was never man enough to plop down the cash for the original Fondle Em pressing of Operation Doomsday. In that same vein the Nike SB Dunk High ‘MF Doom’ was always right out of my range, I missed the boat as they released when I was saving up my money for post-high school travels and the price hasn’t come down since. This is one of those releases that is just oozing with details, from the classic DOOM tag up top to the special tongue label and dubrae.
Photo: Jay BKRW Smith on Sneakerpedia
1. atmos x Nike Air Max 1 B ‘Viotech’
For as long as I’ve been familiar with terms like “quickstrike” and “Tier Zero”, this has been that sneaker I’ve spent the most time lusting after. As a money-less teen it was always the go to pair that I’d pull up when flipping through sites like Flight Club and dreaming up shopping sprees. The Nike Air Max 1 B effect always made them seem particularly special what with the flossy gold of the forefoot and heel-area Swoosh embroidery. As previously alluded to, I’m not the guy who is too comfortable getting down with re-sell prices but if ever a sneaker will make me do it, this is the pair. One of these days.