The final week of 2015 is here and the Sneaker News staff has spent the last few weeks mulling over the best that each brand and category had to offer. For the first time in year, the sneaker world wasn’t dominated by Beaverton, but Nike still pushed forward with some new footwear products that blended the brand’s penchant for innovation and rich history. In addition to Nike, we will be exploring the “best of” every other major brand, category, and industry headlines, so enjoy our selection for the best new Nike sneakers of the year (in no specific order) and let us know if you agree with our choices.
Stay tuned for the 10 Best adidas Releases Of 2015 later today.
Nike Kobe 10 Elite Low
Ever since the introduction of the Nike Kobe 9, Flyknit Kobes have been some of the highest performing and most coveted basketball shoes on the modern day market. It was a difficult task for Eric Avar to outdo the massive success of the Nike Kobe 9 Elite Low, what with the awesome HTM releases and even the Beethoven general release, but he managed to do put forth an outstanding result with the new model. The Kobe 10 Elite Low championed a better outsole with Zoom cushioning, natural motion, and tiny teeth to grip the floor for more precise cuts. The outsole unit even provided a better aesthetic base for translucent options, speckling, and glow in the dark finishes. The return of the Mambacurial look, a Grinch NIKEiD option, and plenty of creative general releases solidified this silhouette as a must-have on multiple levels.
Nike Air Max Zero
Tinker Hatfield’s contributions to the sneaker world are as limitless as they are bold. But if there was one standout invention that Tinker should be known for it would be the creation of the visible air unit, and the continuation of Air Max Day brought a brand new silhouette based on original late-80s sketches of a never-released model in the Air Max Zero. Nike Sportswear rolled out bold packaging for a functional, lightweight runner that also doubled as a lifestyle must-have. If only they were more accessible.
Nike Air Trainer Cruz
It’s a rarity for Footballers to get their own signature silhouette, let alone one meant for off-the-field. The Nike Air Trainer Cruz harkened back to the days of Bo Jackson’s cross-sports training models, but managed to captivate casual sneaker goers thanks to an interestingly textured heel that brought back memories of Kanye’s time with the Swoosh. Nike Sportswear outdid themselves with unique storytelling based on Vic’s time on Dancing With the Stars, his relationship with his father, and an all royal blue pair in reference to the Giants’ then high Super Bowl chances. Vic sat out the year with injury, but this shoe was a testament to Nike and Cruz’s relevance to hold everyone’s interest the way the model so readily did.
Nike LeBron 13
LeBron James became the first player to ever sign a lifetime deal with Nike, a feat that shows the power and business savvy of King James (and a move that hopefully guarantees some LeBron retros well after his playing days are over). The Nike LeBron 13 proved to be another bold design from the ever evolving mind of Jason Petrie, as the reliance on Posite took a completely new form with a futuristic shape on the forefoot and ankle. No longer able to rely on the story of LeBron’s homecoming, this shoe is all business, from the performance enhanced Hexagonal cushioning system – now bolder and larger to absorb explosive impact – to the breathable mesh upper and Flywire support. Head turning colorways hit right off the jump, from the menacing Friday the 13th, to the limited and head-turning Doernbecher collaboration. LeBron models are almost as polarizing as the man who wears them, but if you’re a fan of performance models that will last an entire season, then this pair definitely made its way into your collection.
Nike Kyrie 1
Kyrie Irving was waiting in the Nike wings since his rookie season. With a game tailor-made to be a signature athlete, Nike was tasked with creating a silhouette that would sustain the hallmark cutting and slashing that came with Kyrie’s unique handle and acrobatic moves to the basket. Nike Basketball Design Director Leo Chang was up for the job and created one of the most head-turning signature debuts in recent memory. A herringbone pattern on the outsole that extended to the midsole in a jagged teeth-like appearance was aesthetically pleasing, but served a noteworthy function of creating maximum traction. Debut colorways like the “Dream” look will be collectors items for years to come while quick availability on NIKEiD maximized how much we saw this model. It was a breakout year for Kyrie – one where he was supposed to take a backseat thanks to the return of the King – and ended up stealing some of his shine instead. Dropping Double Nickel games, 57 against the Spurs… it’s hard to pick whether Kyrie’s performances or signature shoe was more news worthy. It was the perfect storm of both.
Nike P-Rod 9 Elite
Paul Rodriguez and Nike have given us some of the best performance skate shoes of the past decade, and the Nike P-Rod Elite 9 was an homage to all of the hard work the duo put in throughout the years. The model featured some of the top-notch technological features in the skating industry, from a well ventilated upper to a Hexagonal Air Zoom technology stolen straight from Nike Basketball. It was the first ever ‘Elite’ skating model, and took the thought process of Nike’s hoops brand to the next level with colorways like the return of the “J-Rod”, complete wth elephant print and actual Jumpman branding on the heel. It made the elite-level price tag worth your while.
Nike ACG Flyknit Lupinek
Nike’s promise to bolster its All Conditions Gear label was honestly rather hit or miss. The return of such long-awaited retros like the Air Mowabb was met with open arms, until you checked the price point. Often times the Swoosh focused more on apparel than footwear, and it wasn’t until the Nike ACG Lupinek Flyknit was introduced that Nike’s new-aged ACG plan was fully realized. A Flyknit-based winter boot doesn’t seem all that functional until you realize it’s bolstered with a zoned Vac-Tech leather mudguard and free-based rugged outsole that most winter boots can’t compete with. It was a stylish way to approach winter, a season that most sneakerheads dread for obvious reasons.
Nike LeBron 12 Low
The Nike LeBron 12 was a love-it or leave-it shoe, much like the polarized fanbase behind one LeBron James. You can see why – the new Hexagonal cushioning system was incredibly bold, but to the uninitiated looked rather strange when worn out of the context of performance basketball. The Nike LeBron 12 Low bridged the gap by offering the perfect middle ground behind a performance sports go-to with off-the-court wearability. The Posite was downplayed to that of an extended midsole, why Air Max made its return to the heel for a more familiar look. The Swoosh placement moved to the forefoot in a soccer-inspired vibe for good measure too. As for the colorways, the SVSM look was approached in a new way, the LeBronold Palmer was no longer an unattainable option, Entourage was revised and revisited, and even LeBron’s debut as a movie star was referenced in an exclusive given to late night star Jimmy Fallon. Let’s not forget the Air Max 95 hybrid either.
Nike MetCon 1
The rise of CrossFit has seen a whole new world of trainers marketed exclusively for those looking to use the growing program to get their workout in. The only problem? CrossFit only accepts Reebok as the sole provider of their footwear. Nike butted in with the creation of the Nike MetCon 1, a training model that utilized a groundbreaking combination of technologies to compete in a category that didn’t want Nike involvement in the first place. Flywire support, natural motion on the toe, a mid section with a unique textured traction, and just enough cushion to withstand the demands of weight-lifting, the MetCon 1 was a serious training shoe with the looks to back it up. The best release of the year was a “Banned” colorway that referenced Michael Jordan’s infamous Bred colorway. Behind that release was an awesome campaign that read “Don’t Ban Our Shoe. Beat Our Shoe.” Well played, Nike.
Nike Footscape Magista Flyknit
Did the rise of the jogger pant change the way sneaker companies looked at designing footwear? It’s an argument that can be made given the memorable Nike Footscape Magista Flyknit. A sock-like fit on the ankle collar made this the perfect shoe to go with the tapered, elastic cuffed pant, and the soccer inspiration made this silhouette loved the world over. A webbed Flyknit construction mirrored that of the Roshe Run while a bold natural motion-like outsole nodded at Nike Sportswear’s previous Chukka models. This pair shined brightest when it was referencing its soccer roots in collections like June’s “Tournament Pack” that saw bold high-contrast Flyknit designs reference some of the best soccer teams in the world. It was a limited NikeLab offering, but one that we’ll remember for some time.