Now that our expert panel has had time to review and debate our favorite releases of 2016 on our YouTube channel, the final decisions have been made. There always seems to be a pair or two that get overlooked or that just missed the cut, but overall this list represents a solid selection of pairs from a variety of brands and different styles that aren’t only runners. Time to roll out the winners.
Adidas Ultra Boost
I’ll start with one of the most obvious and state that I’ve been a fan since a few friends with good taste turned me on to the OG model early last year. By now, there are about 12-14 pairs in my collection including pairs I got for less than retail and some of the more sought after collabs. A couple of pairs I rotate for working out and some I wear regularly as my “go to” sneakers. Really nothing can compete with the comfort and fit – hype or no hype. In the end this Multicolor 2.0 release caught our attention and is the only Adidas pair on the list.
Asics Gel Respector
These get a lot of bashing due to the toebox shape but for these two pairs in particular I’m willing to let that slide. The fit is similar to the Gel Lyte III and I love the very different color choices that help make these attract my attention from the overdone colorways out there. Maybe not pairs I wear all the time but these two from 24 Kilates and Patta I enjoyed adding to the collection and they stand out from the crowd.
The Distinct Life x Reebok Bolton
There were four pairs in this series and each one has outdone the previous release. Materials and details are impeccable and I could and do wear any of the three I won any day of the week. Admittedly I was not familiar with this model but Rick Williams got my attention with this incredible trio. I picked this blue pair and the experts all agreed the vibrant blue put it in the lead.
Garbstore x Reebok
Garbstore continue to impress with their Reebok releases and with each season they only get better. If I could I would grab every colorway of every model but since that isn’t practical these are my favorites. Excited to see them working with the Classic Leather now, too.
Highs & Lows x Reebok NPC UK
Wow. From the first time I saw these and especially the first time I took them out of the box, I’ve been impressed with this release. Something to be said for going with a simple and classic colorway, but closer inspection demonstrates it is all in the details. The buttery soft deer leather is the standout, followed by the perfect shade of blue and the woodgrain eyelets. Seeing these go on sale is a shame but it means more pairs for those who enjoy quality over hype.
West NYC x Saucony Shadow 6000 “Fresh Water”
West NYC continue to be one of my favorite shops I’ve never been to, if for nothing else their ability to produce well thought out and executed collabs that are just frequent enough. Following up on the “Saltwater” release from late 2015, Les and team murdered another retro model with incredible attention to detail and fresh material choices I had not seen before. Another release that didn’t sell out and should have.
Kendrick Lamar x Reebok Classic Leather
K-Dot and Reebok came together for several releases this past year and the relationship was highly successful. After the initial Ventilator sold out, they followed that up with two more grey suede pairs and a premium leather design. Additionally, a more widely released Split Pack hit stores (and eventually sales racks) and were possibly just as nice as the more limited collabs. In the end, this green Classic Leather won the experts over and made our list.
Saucony Select Pumpkin Spice and Feature x Saucony Bacon & Eggs
It was too hard to choose between the two and the judges were all split so we included both pairs. I’ve mentioned it before but I had pretty much stopped buying Saucony for over a year so to see multiple pairs on my list says a lot. The Select pair dubbed Pumpkin Spice covered all the bases with the colors, materials and fit. Zero complaints here. Feature’s take on the Courageous was previously on this site for a recent pickup so I’ll spare the details except to say the Bacon & Eggs stood out from the crowd.
New Balance Surplus Pack 991.5 and Hanon Epic TR
The 991 has never been my favorite model. Many associate it with old men (ironically) and the all grey makeup and the odd midsole never did it for me. However, this mashup of the 991 body with the 1500 midsole had me seriously considering changing my mind. After seeing quite a few nice on foot pics on Instagram, I decided the unique and mature color blocking had to be mine. Having these in hand and on foot, they did not disappoint. Likewise the 4-pack Epic TR collabs were not immediate “yes” pairs for me, but the more I saw them the more I had to have them. Naturally, I gravitated toward the orange and blue pair from Hanon. Only regret with these is not being patient and paying full retail instead of waiting until they hit sales racks.
Bodega x Vans Sk8-Hi “Instant Winner”
In 2014, Boston-based Bodega released a pair of Vans dubbed the “Fleece Pack” that I’ve always loved. I was excited to see them connect with Vans again for this Sk8-Hi with its green hues, colorful highlights and gum soles. As our judges discussed in the video, these are an easy choice for the 2016 highlights.
Solebox x Reebok Club C
Another pair previously featured on a latest pickups post, the Reebok Club C by Solebox had all of the judges in agreement that it had to be on this list. Its colors and some very unique details helped it stand out in a very crowded field. There was no debate about this one.
SBTG x Kicks Lab x Asics Gel Lyte V “Phys Ed”
This year we traveled to Singapore for work again and I was so fortunate to meet Mark aka”SBTG” in his studio. With this particular pair I received a huge assist from a team of solid friends in Singapore who not only helped me secure a pair but got them personalized and included the limited pair with patches. More on those guys and my visit to SBTG in a later post, but I’ll just say these shoes will always hold extra meaning due to the personal connections.
Staple x Puma Suede
Jeff Staple is another one of my favorite sneaker designers and he put a really cool twist on the classic Puma Suede. The mostly grey suede body is interrupted by a block of pink that makes the shoe look as if it was dipped in paint. Staple also released this design in black and off white, and each color was isolated to different regions around the world. I was tempted to grab one or more of the other colorways but I resisted and stuck with the classic pigeon grey and pink. Our experts had a lot to say about this one but it was all positive and this one ended up in the second spot on our list.
Ball & Buck x New Balance USA 585 “Sporting Gentleman”
As I wrote above and I will continue to say, rarely do the shoes live up to the hype and anticipation we tend to place on them. This pair blew it all away and I would say this is my favorite pair this year. Many were leery of the price point (it eventually ended up on sale for half price) and others of the model. In my opinion, I’d rather have one nice pair I really like and will wear than two or three pairs that end up at the bottom of the pile and never get worn again. Granted I have over 200 pairs so I’m not sure how well I adhere to that, but hopefully my point still comes across. This is another release that needs to be seen in person to appreciate and I was lucky to have added it to my stash with some very big help from a local friend who unselfishly offered to go to the store himself and secure my pair. Add these to list of pairs with some meaning.
That’s a wrap for 2016. Since my post in September several pairs dropped off and others were added. I think that is indicative of my evolving (and maybe fickle?) taste in shoes but for me that keeps things interesting. I still find myself going back and wearing a lot of older pairs and enjoying them more now than when I first got them. Maybe that isa reaction to the herd mentality where so many people tend to wear the same pairs as everyone else and move on quickly to the next hyped release.
Thanks again to our experts who helped with the selection process. Their input was invaluable.What would you put on your top releases of 2016?