In more ways than one, the year 2021 felt much like an extension of 2020. A good bulk of the year’s most buzz-worthy releases were mere variations of last year’s best (the Dunk, the Air Jordan 1, the 350 v2, the 550), but there were plenty of redeeming drops interspersed within some provoking changes that have firmly laid the groundwork for a wildly different 2022.
Among the unexpected developments was the ending of Nike’s contract with Kobe Bryant’s estate. The late athlete’s name is synonymous with the brand’s identity and its push for innovation, but the Black Mamba’s union with the Swoosh, which began back in 2003, officially came to an end after negotiations of a renewal finished without a signature on a dotted line. Kobe’s widow Vanessa cited a number of valid reasons to forgo extending the partnership, leaving the future outlook of Kobe footwear unclear.
While the year in tangible footwear seemed relatively lackluster compared to recent years, the industry giants – namely Nike and adidas – boldly inserted themselves into the Metaverse. The Swoosh’s acquisition of RTFKT was just one of its notable strategic moves in terms of its positioning in the virtual world, while adidas Originals’ launch of its own NFT collection promised bigger plans for 2022.
2021 came to a close with two tragedies that will profoundly shape the future in footwear releases. While the needle-moving Travis Scott enjoyed another healthy year in shoe collaborations, the fatal events of Astroworld in November have indefinitely postponed any future projects he’s had in place, with no appropriate timing in sight. But that pales in comparison to the loss of Virgil Abloh, the Off-White founder and Louis Vuitton creative director that succumbed to a secret battle with cancer. Still, the renaissance man worked mightily to leave behind a robust catalog of designs, potentially leaving his fans a wealth of posthumous drops and extending the already massive legacy he’s left behind in such a short time.
Now, without further ado, here’s our 10 Best Sneakers Of 2021.
Patta x Nike Air Max 1 “Noise Aqua”
BAPE STA “Green Camo Sta”
New Balance 550 “Multicolor”
Undefeated x Nike Dunk Low “Canteen”
Nike ZoomX VaporFly NEXT% 2
Invincible x Neighborhood x adidas Campus
Kiko Kostadinov x ASICS GEL-Levitrack
AURALEE x New Balance 550
Stray Rats x New Balance 991
Nike Air Tuned Max ‘Celery’
Run The Boroughs x New Balance 991
Andersson Bell x ASICS GEL-1090
CdG x Nike Air Carnivore
GYAKUSOU x Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%
Nike Dunk Low “Seoul”