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15th December 2023 EDT FEATURES

SNKRDUNK Sneaker of the Year 2023 Nominees

Before it comes down to one shoe, let's celebrate 16 of 2023's most fashion-forward footwear, crafted by trendsetters, trailblazers, and tastemakers.

SNKRDUNK Sneaker of the Year 2023 Nominees
SNKRDUNK Sneaker of the Year 2023 Nominees

This year’s Sneaker of the Year nominees paint a vivid tapestry of footwear innovation, where trends are not merely followed, but forged.

Industry behemoths like Nike and Jordan Brand didn’t relinquish their foothold, only forced to co-exist with brands that were once at the periphery. New Balance, ASICS and Salomon’s are entrées that brought something new to the table. Far from the formulaic and predictable manner that often saturates the market.

Moreover, proving that experience and expertise are not always synonymous, many on the list are first-time collaborators.

So, let yourself be surprised as bold innovations, fresh collaborations, and the reimagining of iconic silhouettes redefine the pinnacle of sneaker design.

These aren’t mere footwear; they are cultural touchstones, symbols of creativity, and ultimately, embodiments of the wearer’s unique identity.

Psst! We want to hear your thoughts too. Read on to the end of the article to find out how you can vote for SNKRDUNK’s Sneaker of the Year and even win it before the year ends…

Chosen by the staff, here are SNKRDUNK’s nominees for Sneaker of the Year 2023:

Yuto Horigome x Nike SB Dunk Low Pro QS “Wolf Grey”

Yuto Horigome x Nike SB Dunk Low Pro QS "Wolf Grey"

Yong: Yuto Horigome’s Nike SB Dunk Low wasn’t just any other regular SB collaboration. It was a celebration and recognition of Horigome’s young but successful career thus far. The biggest highlight, of course, came at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics where he won the first-ever Olympic skateboarding gold medal.

It doesn’t come as a shocker that the Japanese skater would eventually get his own SB Dunk Low, which officially dropped on 28 August this year. Not only does it carry Horigome’s namesake and his family crest, but it’s also a beautiful mashup of colors and materials that makes it versatile for any occasion. One of the top bangers of the year, personally.

MSCHF Big Red Boot

MSCHF Big Red Boot

Dickson: A dream come true for Astro Boy enthusiasts, the MSCHF Big Red Boots stand out as one of the most eccentric and uniquely designed footwear releases we’ve ever encountered. Although questions about its practicality were raised, this pair has unequivocally demonstrated that there are no limits to creativity in contemporary footwear design.

Travis Scott x Nike WMNS Air Jordan 1 Low OG “Medium Olive”

Travis Scott x Nike WMNS Air Jordan 1 Low OG "Medium Olive"

Dickson: Expecting a Travis Scott x Nike sneaker among the nominees? Well, here it is. In the wake of the long-awaited Utopia album release, Travis Scott had a thriving year collaborating with Nike and the Jordan Brand.

The women’s exclusive AJ1 Low “Medium Olive” emerged as a fan favorite, featuring distinctive elements like reverse Swoosh profiles and Cactus Jack branding, all elegantly presented in a versatile Sail and Black color scheme.

Wales Bonner x adidas Samba “Silver”

Wales Bonner x adidas Samba "Silver"

Dickson: Delving into the sneaker trends of 2023, there are a couple of standout styles, and Wales Bonner’s collaborative release with adidas perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the year.

Merging the sleek appeal of silver shoe aesthetics with the iconic Samba model, this pair is distinguished by elongated tongues and intricately woven three-stripes profiles. With such distinctive features, it’s hard not to appreciate this stylish fusion.

Sandy Liang x Salomon XT-6 Expanse “Cradle Pink/Jelly Green/Black”

Sandy Liang x Salomon XT-6 Expanse "Cradle Pink/Jelly Green/Black"

Dickson: In the gorpcore-dominated landscape of 2023, performance footwear label Salomon has consistently embraced collaborative endeavors. Among them includes New York-based label Sandy Liang, skillfully infusing a feminine touch into the technically crafted XT-6 Expanse model.

Exemplified by the vivid expression of Sandy Liang’s bold design sensibility through playful experimentation with vibrant pink hues and whimsical flower motifs, this collaboration stands as a testament to the innovative fusion of performance and style.

Cecilie Bahnsen x ASICS GT-2160 “White/Pure Silver”

Cecilie Bahnsen x ASICS GT-2160 "White/Pure Silver"

Charles: This isn’t just a collaboration, but a truly transformative partnership. As if ASICS gave Cecilie Bahnsen carte blanche, she completely reinterpreted the GT-2160, transforming the runner archetype into a captivating Mary Jane silhouette. Once more bringing her haute couture sensibilities to footwear.

Every element reflects her signature style: delicate floral motifs adorning the unique translucent upper, unorthodox lace placement on the vamp, and a floral-shaped strap that adds a touch of elegance. Moreover, its monochromatic finish divert the eyes entirely to the appreciation of the aforementioned details.

Nike SB x Air Jordan 4 “Pine Green”

Nike SB x Air Jordan 4 "Pine Green”

Yong: Despite being under the same umbrella, Nike SB and Jordan collaborations are few and far between. That’s why when they do eventually come together, it’s usually a huge event that garners the attention of sneakerheads worldwide.

The Nike SB x Air Jordan 4 “Pine Green” mashes the worlds of basketball and skateboarding together, turning the ever-popular AJ4 silhouette into a skate-primed high-top sneaker ready to take on the half-pipes. Not only is it up-tooled from a technical perspective, but it’s also one of the cleanest Nike designs to have released this year. That gum sole just adds the flavor du jour, doesn’t it?



Dickson: Drawing inspiration from Japan’s lush forests and the Shinto shrines nestled within them, HAL-STUDIOS and ASICS unveiled a limited run of their collaborative GEL-1130 model, aptly named “Forest.”

Marked by an earthy color palette and textured compositions of shaggy suede, leather, and mesh paneling that mirror the terrestrial tones of the forest, this pair stands out as an ideal choice for immersing yourself in nature, or should we say, sneaker bathing amidst the greenery?

Born X Raised x Nike SB Dunk Low Pro QS “One Block at a Time”

Born X Raised x Nike SB Dunk Low Pro QS “One Block at a Time”

Charles: From its initial tease to its eventual release, the pair has been highly anticipated from the getgo. Respectfully, it was even close to being shelved due to the sudden passing of co-founder Chris “Spanto” Printup.

Its case for Sneaker of the Year is how impeccably it embodies the brand’s raison d’etre of combating the gentrification of their city, “one black at a time”.

Its motifs are well-considered and meticulously designed: sashiko-inspired perforations on the toe box and topmost eyelets, holographic profile Swooshes and heel tab, and a Zoom Air-infused midsole. The dedication is beyond the shoe itself, housed in a bespoke shoebox, extra laces, and accessories.

Collaborations used to always feel this special. Although Spanto never the saw the pair’s release, it’s indubitably one that’s worthy of his legacy.

Jarritos x Nike SB Dunk Low “Phantom and Malachite”

Jarritos x Nike SB Dunk Low "Phantom and Malachite"

Yong: F&B-themed sneakers have long been on the menu for the Swoosh, especially when looking at SBs. Think of the likes of the formidable Concepts “Lobsters” and the highly-coveted Ben & Jerry’s “Chunky Dunky” from 2020. This year, Nike SB added another brand to their collaborative offerings: the ‘official drink of Tacos‘, Jarritos.

The Jarritos x Nike SB Dunk Low was first teased half a year before it was officially released in May, and it was all hype and excitement along the way.

What made it super cool was the presence of an inner layer beneath its overlays, which would reveal Jarritos’ signature shade of orange. It’s an awesome sneaker with a customisable design—and even more awesome if you’re a fan of the delicious fruity soda.

Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low “Rammellzee”

Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low "Rammellzee"

Charles: Anything Supreme could possibly attempt on the Nike SB Dunk Low is like a Stephen Curry free throw—almost guaranteed to be a hit. Mostly, because it gets a lot of assist from its pedigree. People love Supreme for its cachet and the SB Dunk Low for its versatility, but the Rammellzee tribute is the pièce de résistance.

It’s a perfect homage to one of graffiti’s frontiersman, with his signature motifs gracing most of the upper. Supreme is the quintessential New York streetwear brand, and Rammellzee the quintessential New York artist. A match made in heaven.

Case in point: the SB Dunk is actually their third collaboration, succeeding a set of backpacks in 2004 and graphic tees for SS20. Enjoy the glory of heaven, Rammellzee.

Spider-Man x Nike Air Jordan 1 High OG SP “Next Chapter/Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Charles: There are three Nike Air Jordan 1 Highs that took centerstage this year—the Union LA x Bephies Beauty Supply collaboration, the “Royal Reimagined”, and the titular Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse crossover. Out of them, it’s arguably the last that edges out. Building on the repute of its wildly successful predecessor, it’s a sequel but it’s no second-fiddle.

Encased in the iconic “Chicago” colorway, the pair materializes the vibrant, polychromatic world of the Spider-Verse. The Ben-Day dots, most vividly visible during the mid-dimension scenes; as well as the soft spherical hues of red, yellow, and teal that seamlessly capture the essence of the animated masterpiece.

This collaboration stands as a prime example of how to successfully translate a movie concept into footwear design.

Action Bronson x New Balance 990v6 “BAKLAVA”

Charles: Let Bam Bam himself explain this. “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.”

Pretty clever, no?

Ronnie Fieg x Clarks x adidas Samba “White/Green”

Ronnie Fieg x Clarks x adidas Samba “White/Green”

Charles: Just look at Kith. It’s the embodiment of Ronnie Fieg’s business acumen and creative direction. This year, he’s lent his Midas touch to several collaborations from ASICS to Birkenstocks. They’re prolific, but second to his tripartite collaboration with Clarks and adidas. Take your pick out of the three colorways.

The Samba is in the midst of its renaissance, and in addition to the Wales Bonner collab, this one represents one of its finest moments.

Few could’ve envisioned a connection between Sambas and Clarks, but Ronnie Fieg did. Fusing the Samba’s design with Clarks’ hallmark crepe soles and hangtags, each adorned with the logos of all three collaborators.

You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes, and if you let these shoes do the talking, you’ll definitely leave a good impression.

JJJJound x New Balance 991 “Beige”

Yong: New Balance enthusiasts will know just how legendary a grey JJJJound sneaker is. Being the third in the unofficial series after a 990v3 in 2018 and a 992 in 2020, this year’s iteration saw the Montréal-based boutique apply their classic grey-on-black color scheme on the iconic New Balance 991.

For those who missed out on the earlier releases, it’s a definite must-cop given that it largely takes on the same aesthetics as the previous two. The black medial “N” profile and the JJJJound logo on the heel are just so profound and renowned it’s hard to pass it by. It might not be the most expensive out of the list, but the JJJJound x New Balance 991 “Beige” is certainly a thing of beauty.

ASICS GEL-KAYANO 14 “Cream/Black”

ASICS GEL-KAYANO 14 "Cream/Black"

Yong: In a market that’s dominated by collaborations, it takes a lot for a GR sneaker to fit into a Sneaker of the Year list. Aside from the MSCHF Big Red Boot (if you want to count that as a non-collab), the ASICS GEL-KAYANO 14 “Cream/Black” has undoubtedly earned its spot on our list.

Perhaps owing to the in-vogue Y2K/vintage trends, the metallic-infused sneaker has been a constant chart-topper both in terms of popularity and sales. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to label it as one of ASICS’ best performers this year.

By all accounts, it’s a simple design—but sometimes ‘simple’ is what the current fashion trend aligns itself to. Don’t be shocked if you can’t find these on the shelves; it’s one of the only GRs to go out-of-stock at ASICS as soon as they were available.

Of course, in the true spirit of the gift-giving season, we’re giving away the winning shoe to one lucky winner!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. From 7–15 Dec, head to SNKRDUNK’s Instagram daily and vote on our Instagram Story Poll, championship-style. Have more to say? Reply to the Story and tell us why the shoe is your 2023 reigning victor.
  2. Once polling is done and the majority vote has declared the Sneaker of the Year, we’ll post a giveaway post of the winning shoe on our Instagram by 15 Dec.
  3. Join the giveaway by telling us why the sneaker deserves the Sneaker of the Year and why you deserve to win it too.
  4. Increase your chances of winning by sharing the Instagram post!

Get voting, show your love, and you may be lacing up in the Sneaker of the Year before 2024 rolls around. Best of luck, and Happy Holidays!


More SNKRDUNK Features:
Christmas Gifts for the Sneakerheads in Our Lives: A Street Culture Odyssey
2023’s Best-Selling Sneakers on SNKRDUNK
Top Streetwear Stores to Visit in Tokyo 2023
Top Streetwear Trends That Dominated 2023
Comparing Low-Top Legends: Nike Dunk Low and Air Jordan 1 Low