All of the Best Superhero Sneakers this Year
Releases featuring our favorite superheroes that make us excited for the future of unique sneaker collaborations.
The world’s collective ‘superhero fever’ has fizzled down since Marvel Studios’ domination of pop culture through their massively successful blockbuster hits, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. However, we don’t think it has died out.
Since that cinematic climax in 2019, we’ve seen Matt Reeves’ gritty thriller The Batman, the satirical (anti)hero series The Boys, the surprise hit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem and of course, the franchise that continues to make waves in the animation industry, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Four years and one global pandemic later, it still seems that superhero movies are here to stay.
Supply increases to match demand–it’s simple economics. With a steady stream of superhero content catching the attention of audiences across the globe, we’ve also seen an ever-increasing range of superhero memorabilia, including action figures, apparel, and of course, the merch we love to see the most: sneaker collaborations.
As such, we’ve collated a list of 2023’s top superhero sneaker collaborations so far, starting with the biggest superhero release this year…
■ Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse x Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Next Chapter”
Any superhero movie list, much less a superhero sneaker list, would be wrong to ignore the animation milestone that is the Spider-Verse series. The first installment, Into the Spider-Verse, was celebrated by Jordan Brand with an extremely limited release of the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Origin Story” (below, left), which was a stylized version of the iconic “Chicago” colorway that Miles Morales sported in the film.
Of course, this limited release was nothing compared to the massive push the sequel’s sneakers experienced. Just like Across the Spider-Verse upped the ante of the plotline, introducing audiences to the entire multiverse of Spider-People, Jordan Brand went even wilder with its “Next Chapter” colorway (above, right), using a patchwork of textures for the iconic red overlays, while featuring comic-style halftone hatching and the mismatched multiversal ‘bubbles’ seen in the film.
It, in itself, is almost a representation of the franchise–it looks like many “Chicago” Air Jordan 1s were pulled from across the sneaker-verse into one single shoe.
DISCLAIMER: Across the Spider-Verse spoilers below. If you haven’t watched the movie by this point… you’re asking for it. Skip this paragraph if you’d like to remain unspoiled.
Another exciting, but unfortunately limited release that came out of this franchise was a Friends & Family launch of the Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG SP Utility “Prowler”.
Worn by Miles Morales’ evil multiversal counterpart, it features the black, blue and striking neon pink of The Prowler’s menacing suit, coupled with the clip-on mini zipper and button bags of the unique Air Jordan 1 Utility silhouette.
We’re still mourning the fact that these never experienced a general release, but with the finale film on the way, we’re looking forward to what Jordan Brand and the Spider-Verse series put out next.
■ Powerpuff Girls x Nike SB Dunk Low
We’ve been anticipating this 3-piece collection since rumors of the collaboration began circulating in the sneakersphere earlier this year. Sugar, spice and everything nice all show up in these three Powerpuff Girls Dunk Low colorways, named after the three starring girls, “Blossom”, “Bubbles” and “Buttercup”.
Each colorway focuses on the respective character’s key colors–Pink for Blossom, Blue for Bubbles and Green for Buttercup. Other interesting elements include the cartoon characters’ eyes replacing the Dunk Low’s usual Nike heel tab, what appears to be a smile on the left inner heel, as well as a patterned tongue. Though unconfirmed, there’s also talk of a fourth purple/lime green colorway representing the show’s main villain, “Mojo Jojo”.
The mockups and concept art for these Powerpuff Girls x Nike SB Dunk Lows have gone through some of the most twists and turns we’ve seen for any release this year. Clearly, the collaborating partners are doing well to keep the designs under wraps, while the sneaker community is doing its utmost best to predict, leak and conceptualize what the final product could possibly look like.
With this amount of buzz surrounding the three (possibly four) sneakers, we’re excited to see how the sneaker community reacts when official photos finally come out. Keep up with this live story, including leaks, future official photos and release details for the Powerpuff Girls SB Dunks by clicking the button below!
■ Kith x Marvel X-Men x ASICS GEL-Lyte III Collection
At the end of July, this triple-threat collaboration put out a whopping seven X-Men-themed sneakers, coupled with matching trading cards, packaged in an equally collection-worthy blind box. As if this wasn’t enough, Kith and Marvel also designed a full X-Men vintage apparel collection, two custom Fiberglass Shell Chairs with furniture design company Modernica, as well as a custom arcade machine with manufacturer Arcade1Up.
Kith has always been known to go all-in on their collaborations, and they definitely did not disappoint with this massive vintage superhero collection.
The sneaker collection itself dedicates two colorways to the group’s biggest character, Wolverine, including a blue/yellow/black colorway based on his OG 1975 suit, and another yellow/brown/red colorway mirroring his 1980s look.
The remaining colorways target five other X-Men characters, including blue/white (Beast), navy/blue/yellow (Cyclops), red/tan/orange (Gambit), yellow/green/olive (Rogue) and white/black/gray (Storm). Check out all the colorways in the gallery below.
Kith x ASICS is always a winning combination, and their spotless track record extends to this collection. Each of the colorways are simultaneously a vibrant celebration of one of the longest-running superhero series, as well as a great piece of footwear to match with all outfits.
What makes this collection even more special is the consistent trading card theming throughout: the beautifully vintage-styled boxes are all completely opaque, with striking text stating “Mystery Pack!” and “6 Different Heroes to Collect!” Inside, a metal-like reflective bag conceals the shoes (and the included Kith x Marvel Trading Cards), ensuring the user only discovers what colorway they’ve bought when they open up the bag.
In essence, the experience of buying and unboxing these sneakers is exactly equivalent to the experience of opening a trading card pack, down to the box theming and reflective packaging. Kith, Marvel and ASICS haven’t just created a superhero sneaker collection–they’ve designed an entire vintage experience for their fans.
■ BAIT x Puma RS-X “The Flash”
In the leadup to DC releasing its first solo movie for The Flash in a decade, the studio worked with sportswear brand Puma and lifestyle boutique BAIT to give the iconic speedster his first ever official sneakers. The result was a visually striking pair of RS-X sneakers combining the scarlet red and yellow of the character’s superhero suit into a fiery colorway. The Flash’s lightning insignia makes its appearance on the tongue, upper and (more subtly) on the outsole, making these RS-Xs the speediest sneakers on the market.
■ Nike TN Air Max Plus 3 “Spider-Verse”: The Unofficial Spider-Man Collaboration
At this point, you might be wondering why the list is covering such copious amounts of Spider-Man content. However, the fact is that few other superheroes have the same value and influence in pop culture as Spider-Man.
Sneaker companies recognize this, too, and reward the superhero’s impact with even more themed drops, even without official collaborations with the studio.
While the Spider-Verse AJ1s seem to be more symbolic of Miles Morales, this Tuned Air sneaker seems to match the colorways of other universe’s Spider-Men better, like Spider-Man 2099 or The Spectacular Spider-Man.
Iconic bright red and blue accents pop out from a black mesh base, which when combined with the flow of the design from toe to heel creates a highly streamlined, futuristic silhouette that’s perfectly in-line with some of the abovementioned characters.
Though we’ll never know if Nike’s designers were truly inspired by Spider-Man when creating this colorway, the design choices–coupled with the convenient release date following the debut of Across the Spider-Verse–certainly makes it seem that way.
All in all…
Just like the general public will always have at least some interest in the exciting stories of superheroes, the sneaker community will always look forward to the release of superhero sneaker collaborations, whether official or inspired.
The bright, vibrant color palettes of some heroes, as well as the dark, brooding vibes of others consistently make for interesting, unique colorways that don’t necessarily have to scream “I LOVE COMICS!” More and more, superhero sneakers are becoming interesting, versatile pieces of footwear that can be worn as a statement piece, or used to complement an outfit.
With many more superhero series on the horizon, we’re interested to see what this collision of two industries can put out next.
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