Hybrid models have always been a polarizing topic in the sneaker world. The purists, on the one hand, have been known to make the argument that it’s sacrilege to alter the DNA of the classics, but on the flip side of that, some of these designs have provided some of the most interesting sneaker evolutions we’ve ever seen. It’s a tricky balance with far more misses than hits, but it’s not going away anytime soon, as a variety of brands continue to look for ways to breathe some new life into their heritage staples. In this week’s installment of SN Staff Insights, we’re narrowing down some of our favorite hybrid offerings of the past few years, so continue on for a look at what we picked and why.
Nike Air Max 97/360
We typically groan at the sight of hybrid sneakers, but I loved what Nike did back in 2006 when the brand unveiled its first-ever full-length Max Air unit. To celebrated the Air Max 360 running shoe, a limited run of “One Time Only” releases were created in which the Air Max 1, 90, 95, and 97 had their own distinct Max Air-infused midsoles replaced with the big Air-filled bag. Some of these Air Max hybrids looked a bit awkward since the relatively “primitive” upper designs didn’t exactly match up with the shapely, voluptuous 360 Max Air unit, but it looked rather seamless with the Air Max 97 considering that, among the group, it was the shoe closest to a full-length Air unit.
The most surprising Air Max 97/360 release was the “Union” colorway that was originally on the Air Force 180 (from the Clerks Pack in 2005). At the time, Safari print as well as printed sock-liners were rarely done (both are all the rage now). It looked perfect on the 97/360 and back when Nike’s Tier Zero level actually denoted some level of exclusivity, these were a must-have and allegedly, less than 5,000 pairs were made.
Nike Air Maxim 1 Trainer
I was on the verge of selecting the soon-to-be-returning Air Tech Challenge Hybrid for this topic when John reminded of a pair that’s even more near and dear to my heart. The Air Maxim 1 Trainer combined two of my top 5 all-time Nike silhouettes into one fairly seamless new model. Honestly, I could do without the plastic “Maxim” elements and wish it had been a more traditional blend of original Air Max 1 and Air Trainer 1 materials, but the perfect application of the “Chlorophyll” colorway brought it all together in a way that worked just fine for me. I was disappointed at the time that the other colorways of this model were lackluster at best, but looking back, it just accentuates how great this pair was and pretty much ensures that it’s the only version that sneaker history will remember, and rightfully so.
Nike Footscape Woven Chukka
Nike’s lifestyle tendencies are well documented as of late with their current flyknit regime bolstering a number of models that are easy to rock on any occasion like the Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukka, but even before those sneakers caught my eye, it was the partial hybrid of the Nike Footscape Woven Chukka that made me stand at attention.
Nike took the underrated Footscapes and at the time, the overlooked Wovens, two seemingly forgotten models in the Swoosh catalogue, and by using the midsole and unique asymmetrical lacing system from the latter truly hit this pair out of the park. Add in the woven material streaking down the side of the upper in an homage to the Wovens and this pair is as aesthetically crazy as they are comfortable.
My favorite colorway has to be the “Red Reef” pair that saw a vibrant red suede cover the entirety of the upper as it blended into the neoprene ankle support while green nylon added ventilation on the woven panelling. What more could you ask for from a chukka designed from the Swoosh that’s seemingly as functional as it is eye-catching?
New Balance 997.5
Hopefully I’m not doing too much dodging here by picking a model that’s not that egregious in terms of the hybridization. The New Balance 997 is a relatively obscure sneaker in the grand scheme of things I feel like, so when the 997.5 was brought around, I think that most missed out on the fact that it was a mash-up – I don’t even remember the .5 showing up too often to differentiate them from the truer build (Abzorb vs Encap cushioning being the big difference).
I’m happy that the OG 997 is back around for 2014, but the 997.5 was incredible for the short bit that it lasted. There aren’t many colorways in total, but the ones that are out there are incredibly consistent. United Arrows? Nonnatives? That navy/grey pair? Hybrids done right if you ask me.
Nike Air Max 360 Griffey Hybrid
Of all Hybrid models out there I have to go with these Griffeys. Although the shoe is a little busy, everything about it screams 90s to me, which is why I love it. “The Kid” is one of my favorite athletes of all-time and his shoe line has always caught my eye, so naturally when I saw this model it intrigued me.
I feel like these went somewhat unappreciated by the sneaker world, but for me the combination of the bulky, wavy midsole, full Air Max bag, visible lacing system, Swoosh on the toe, big Swingman logo on the back and extremely clean outsole makes this one of the best hybrids on my list. Not to mention Nike dropped them in some pretty sweet, unique colorways.