The 10 Best Sneakers of 2023 (So Far)
Did you get your hands on any of these pairs?
Every year, the sneaker landscape continues to expand much like the universe itself. With more and more brands entering the market and vying to create the best sneaker, Nike remains the juggernaut that they are but their contemporaries have been no slouch either, pushing the competition even further.
There should’ve been a PUMA, a Reebok, or even a Mizuno on this midyear listicle. They may not have made the cut this time around, but they’ve got the next six months to let out the big guns.
Most of the pairs in the following are collaborations because when brands work together to produce a superior design, everybody wins.
Here are the hottest sneakers released midway through 2023 (in no particular order):
Travis Scott x Nike WMNS Air Jordan 1 Low OG “Medium Olive”
Starting with the most polarizing of them all, its exclusion potentially controversial. Nobody has dominated the sneaker market the way Travis Scott has—since, well—Michael Jordan himself. In the last five years, he’s stood on the shoulders of the giant with no arrow able to reach him at that altitude.
This women’s exclusive pair came out as strong as its predecessors, selling out just as fast, and reselling for an exorbitant amount on secondary markets. Its aesthetic falling right on the public’s palate for earthy tones that La Flame himself has perpetuated.
The rumor mill has that this will be the last in his Air Jordan 1 series but it certainly isn’t the last of Travis and Nike. Especially with him being spotted recently in a new silhouette. And to say nothing of his purported Air Jordan 3 collaboration.
Ronnie Fieg x Clarks x adidas Samba “White/Green”
This is an example of a perfect storm. The adidas Samba is in the midst of a renaissance since the unofficial endorsement of fashion-forward celebrities.
Add Clarks’ signature crepe soles into the mix and you’ve got a casual sneaker that you can wear to meet any head of state… because they’d say those are nice too. Ronnie Fieg, despite his Midas touch, does not have his work cut out for him. Nevertheless, the pair surely wouldn’t have turned out the way they did without him. Look at what he did with KITH.
Nike Air Jordan 1 High “Next Chapter/Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
It’s easy to compare the sequel to the original and say it isn’t quite as good. Sure, you could be inclined to compare Miles Morales to Peter Parker. But, they’re two different people, two different heroes, and these in concept, are two different shoes.
Look beyond its association with the movie (which predictably will be a hit). Its the convergence of a zeitgeist. Its colorway an homage to the Adam of all sneakers, its motifs an homage to the golden era of comic books. Everything that you might have enjoyed in your childhood, materialized in a shoe. Sequels may not always hit their mark, but this one sure hits the spot.
CLOT x Nike Cortez “Black/White”
Rarely does a pair share the Nike Cortez’s pop culture narrative. From being skated with by the original Charlie’s Angel, Farrah Fawcett; to being worn to death by endearing idiot savant, Forrest Gump.
The shoe has been reimagined ad nauseam over the last 50 years but CLOT found the audacity to break the mold—literally. Inspired by the iconic kung fu shoes of decades past, they found a way to integrate a modular design into a classic’s un-malleable fixture.
CLOT’s body of work has been a hit and miss but for this round, they must’ve watched Stephen Curry’s MasterClass because they found their shooting form. Especially when the pair is succeeded by the CLOT x fragment design x Nike Dunk Low “20th Anniversary”.
Sandy Liang x Salomon XT-6 Expanse “Cradle Pink/Jelly Green/Black”
Sandy Liang’s eponymous label will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year and there’s much to look back on. Even with her signatures established, she’s not to be typecasted into feminine avant-garde. Don’t mistake the Sandy Liang girl to just be about pleated skirts and ruffled tops. As a designer, Liang is a product of her heritage and her environment. Thus the melting pot that New York is, materializes on her Salomon XT-6.
It’s replete with the feminine identity, perfectly amalgamated into Salomon’s trail-ready make. Its appeal stems from this exact juxtaposition, where a delicate touch doesn’t mean fragile, and utilitarian doesn’t mean graceless. It’s fashion and function. A paragon of “rugged elegance”.
Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance 860v2 “Green”
Teddy Santis shouldn’t get all the credit for the New Balance revival lately, but he does deserve a plenty. He’s wearing more hats than Talib Kweli, balancing his duties as Aimé Leon Dore’s head honcho and as Creative Director of NB’s MADE in USA division. It’s a partnership that’s elevated both parties like Walter White and Gustavo Fring’s.
The New Balance 860v2 may have been around since 2011 but it’s going to be remembered foremost for this exact collaboration. It stands at the confluence of the two biggest trends: dad shoes and the vintage aesthetic. Its maximalist design perfectly dressed in ALD’s hallmark Ivy League Americana. It looks old, but not. It feels old, but not. How? Ask Teddy and NB. Or you just might have to get a pair to find out.
Nike SB x Air Jordan 4 “Pine Green”
The Air Jordan line has a skateboarding pedigree dating back to the Air Jordan 1 (a trivia even alluded to in Ben Affleck’s AIR when Peter Moore [the character] was seen skating in the Nike compound). Most crossovers between two of Nike’s most profitable subdivisions have taken place over its predecessor but it’s the first time for the Air Jordan 4.
It retains all the hallmarks of the cult-favorite pair while retooled to endure the harsh punishment skaters put on their shoes. Thicker materials are used for its construction, integrating gum rubber outsoles, suede mudguards, and Poron insoles for impact protection inside.
JJJJound x New Balance 991 “Beige”
JJJJound started as a wordless blog, a mood board in the mid-noughties, over time transforming into a creative studio, a label, and ultimately, a tastemaker. If founder JJJJustin Saunders tells you it’s nice, it is nice. Brands usually endorse an athlete or designer, but for JJJJound, they endorse the brand. Were you going to say Salomons were as nice before JJJJound? You can’t say PUMA, New Balance, and ASICS didn’t benefit from it.
Arriving in a neutral palette, the uniformity of the tones add minimalism to the already maximalist construction. Beauty usually lies in the contradiction. That’s why good girls love bad boys. That’s why we love this very good, bad boy.
Action Bronson x New Balance 990v6 “Baklava”
At first, it seems like there’s no MO in its creation, till he (Action Bronson) explains: “I wanted to capture everything that makes us up as beings. The water, the waves, the energy. The energy in the copper. The energy that transfuses electricity into light … You can literally break down each color.
“The bottom—the ocean—water, which makes us up. Then it’s the earth, the terra. Then you have another layer of the copper. That’s the electricity that infuses everything that lies underneath the layers. Then you have the electricity in the sky—that neon green, the lightning. Then you have the grey—original New Balance structure and soul as something planetary, the moon.”
That’s just genius, hiding it behind a playful facade. A method to the madness. A kinetic way of designing. Tested by the rapper himself in the WWE wrestling ring. I mean, he is known as Action Bronson—not Neurotic Overthinking Bronson.
Matin Kim x ASICS GEL-SONOMA 15-50 “Glacier Gray”
Relative to its contemporaries, Seoul-based label Matin Kim may be a new name but the names who’ve worn their clothes are some of the biggest in the world. Validated by the likes of NewJeans, TWICE, NMIXX, et al.
For their maiden collaboration with ASICS, they produce the three-piece “Tracing Ego” pack of GEL-SONOMA 15-50s. Out of the three, this “Glacier Gray” colorway embodies the brand’s signature of contemporary minimalism the most. Adapting the trail-ready, heavy-duty nature of Salomon’s and giving them a seraphic feel.
Although it’s on the border of being overdesigned, not one component is greater than the sum of its parts with each one working in tandem to push the dual-branded tongue patch in the spotlight.
That’s the list of some of the best sneakers released halfway through 2023. There’re many already announced that we foresee making it into our Best of the Year listicle. For what it’s worth, here’s to more brands making the list more diverse!
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