2018 was an intense year for sneakers. We started the year heavy on the chunky soles and dad shoe trend, and, as the year wraps up, we're getting more into personalized pairs. White sneakers are appearing across every market, acting as canvases for amateur creatives to leave a personal touch on their kicks. Meanwhile, brands have also been focused on blending the past and the future; you’ll find this list is populated with shoes that draw inspiration or elements from the '80s and '90s, but play with them in very contemporary ways. And while technology used to be about running away from the past, the sneakers in 2018 show us that we can use it as a launching pad. This is our list of the best sneakers of 2018.
The Justin Timberlake take on the new Air Jordan 3 wasn’t just a game changer because it used the original Tinker Hatfield sketch for the iconic Jordan 3 as the design base (that includes a Swoosh that seems intrusive 30 years later), but also because Nike dropped the shoes when Justin Timberlake took the stage during the super bowl. It was a true sneaker moment that definitely goes down as a hallmark of 2018.
A bold color or print takes an outfit from ordinary to extraordinary. They can give a monochromatic outfit a fun splash of color, or match with a contrast print for an ultra-stylish look that puts all eyes on you. Take a trip on the wild side with cheetah and leopard print boots. These two prints can make an outfit pop. Because these prints are so vibrant, your clothing should a bit more understated. Make them the stars of your fashion show by wearing them with neutral colored clothing.
The sock runner trend, perfected by the Balenciaga Speed Trainer, hit its apogee with Reebok's Run.r. Like we said, Balenciaga perfected the look, but these Sock Run.rs are still amazing. The upper is about as simple a sock you can get, with some printing on the throat, but the sole is what's most interesting about the shoe. The seemingly multi-unit sole features what looks like a separated toe (it's connected to the rest of the sole under the sneaker), a taller section at the ball for stability, and a heel cup at the back. The look is intense but surprisingly well balanced.
If you are a real shoe lover, an occasional online purchase may not be enough, and it might make sense to sign up for a shoe subscription service. Sites like JustFab and ShoeDazzle offer memberships for about $40 a month. You get to shop their picks at discounted prices monthly, or you can save what you paid in membership fees to use toward future shoe purchases whenever you want to liven up your wardrobe. Usually, you can opt to skip months and not pay the subscription fee when you really can’t afford it. There are also shoe subscription services that cater to more specific interests – for example, Sneakertub.
Walkers choose walking sandals or trail sandals for both short and long distance walks. As with any walking shoe, it is important to find a good fit and to test the walking sandals at shorter distances and with or without socks. Today's running sandals and trail sandals provide athletic shoe features such as motion control, flexibility, and secure strapping systems so your feet don't get rubbed raw by the straps.
For many sneakerheads, the Black Cement 3 is considered the greatest sneaker of all time. A combination of silhouette, colorway, social significance, and basic wearability created a perfect storm. The shoes were made available to the public again for the first time since 2011, introducing a new generation to the GOAT sneaker and letting the rest of us refresh our collection.
The Teva Universal Premier sandal can be your go-to walking sandal throughout the warmer months. It is available in a version with leather uppers and one with quick-drying polyester webbing uppers in a variety of colors. The straps are well-padded, even underneath the rings that connect the straps. This is an important feature to reduce the risk of rubbing, irritation, and blisters that sandal straps can give you, especially on longer walks.
After Lance Mountain brought a layered customization to the Jordan 1 and Virgil Abloh tore it apart and sewed it back together, Nigel Sylvester took those bold moves and blended them into subtler, personal flourishes on his latest collaboration. Taking inspiration from how his own pairs look after being heavily worn, the result is a sophisticated design with alluring details, and definitely a top pick from the year.
Since we started reviewing online shoe stores in 2016 we have spent over 30 hours exploring their features, their inventory, service policies and online support. We feel confident about our recommendations as a result. At some point, we contacted each of the stores in our lineup with various questions related to our findings and to clarify things we had a limited understanding of. The stores had no input or influence over our testing methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available by reading our reviews online. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
2018 will go down as the year Nike and Jordan Brand started thinking about the women’s market seriously. Jordan created an entire sub brand devoted to their female customers, and launched pieces with the “1 Reimagined” program. Ten new takes on the Jordan 1 and Air Force 1 offer complete shakeups of these classic designs, shuffled up for a female customer base. Don’t let the gender designation get in the way; some of these deserve full market distribution.
The sneaker community is split pretty drastically around the Legacy 312, and we understand why: The shoes represent a mash-up of some of the most beloved sneakers in the Nike and Jordan archives. Intensely nostalgic sneakerheads have called the combination Don C put together a travesty, but if you're willing to look forward, there's a lot to appreciate about the shoes. Depending on the colorway you grab, the shoes can be bold or subtle, a mirror of how you can see these sneakers as retro inspired or entirely new. There are more colorways of this sneaker coming that haven’t released yet so stay tuned.
It's no secret that the Air Max 270 Bowfin is one of the stranger silhouettes that released this year, but it suddenly made sense when we caught the Atomic Violet colorway. The shoes are wild: The uppers are a mess of materials with an attached tongue, a ribbon-constructed lacing system that culminates in a lacelock, and even a ripstop top that acts as a shield for the rest of the shoe. The sole is a triumph on its own: texture and line come together with a bright mudguard, and then a 270-degree air bubble at the heel. There are subtler colorways of the kicks, but with a blend of lavender, pink, mustard, white, and black, the details of the shoe are elevated and we get to see what makes it truly unique.
2018 can boast some truly innovative steps in sneaker design, and the DMX Fusion 1 from Reebok and Pyer Moss is squarely in the pantheon of that arena. The silhouette itself is like a dozen other sock runners, but the lacing system is almost mind-boggling. The laces start at the very toe and help inform the shape of the vamp as they pull back to the quarter. Once at the quarter they crisscross a few times through loops, which are rigged so low on the shoe, they're almost at the sole. The laces then wrap around the heel before coming back to the tongue for closure with a lacelock. It's a complicated but refreshing system, and it opens the door for a lot of customization.
Buying shoes online is a pain in the ass. Even if you measure your feet correctly, shoe fits vary widely, so you’ll inevitably have to ship a few pairs back before you find the right one. Try buying several styles in several sizes at once, so you can just make one big return shipment instead of five trips to UPS. Most shoe sites are fine with this, but check site policy before you go wild.