Over the past ten years, it truly feels as though sneaker culture has taken on a whole new life and in many respects, has even become mainstream. Rare sneakers and dope collabs have always existed but now, more and more people are being introduced to the world of sneakers as a hobby. The reason for this is quite simple. Now more than ever before, athletes and artists dominate pop culture in such a way that if we see someone we’re a fan of wearing something, our natural instinct is to want to wear it as well. Artists and athletes continue to get their very own sneakers and consumers are paying attention.
This decade was quite fruitful when it came to the sneaker game. If you were told to point to one defining characteristic of the sneakers we saw over the last ten years, you wouldn’t be able to do it. The 2010s were defined by dope collabs, new silhouettes, and fresh interpretations of some of the sneaker world’s most iconic models. Not to mention, some releases helped usher in a new era where reselling sneakers became a viable profession. Heading into 2020, it appears as though all of these trends will continue to live on which makes this previous decade one of the most influential yet.
Having said all of that, it’s important to look at the shoes that brought us here. So without further ado, here are ten shoes that defined the decade. From runners to basketball players and even the occasional hypebeast, there is something here for everyone.
Nike Flyknit Trainer
Throughout this list, you’re going to see Kanye West’s name a lot. For some of you, the mere mention of Kanye in relation to sneakers has grown tiresome although it’s important to note how much he’s meant to the culture these past 10 years. Whenever Kanye is spotted wearing a new shoe, people take notice and in 2012, this was no different. While it may not seem like the most significant shoe on this list, it’s necessary to point out the influence of the Nike Flyknit Trainer. West was always seen wearing this sneaker alongside Kim Kardashian and eventually, sneakerheads took notice. The original white and black colorway is a staple of the 2010s and even saw a retro back in 2017. Aside from Kanye, this shoe is significant because it helped usher in the Flyknit trend. Almost every single Nike shoe has a Flyknit variant which isn’t surprising when you consider how comfortable it is. Even if the Flyknit Trainer isn’t your thing, there is no denying how influential it’s been on sneaker technology and the scene as a whole.
Adidas UltraBoost 1.0
Debuting in 2015, the UltraBoost has been heralded as one of the greatest running shoes of all-time and we would have to agree. This sneaker looks and feels exactly how a running shoe should. After seeing Nike dominate with Flyknit technology, Adidas took it up a notch with Primeknit which is stretchier and softer than its Flyknit counterpart. While the Primeknit upper serves as a comfy upper for the top of your feet, Adidas was able to turn this shoe into an instant classic thanks to the Boost midsole. For those who don’t know, Boost is a material that looks like styrofoam and makes you feel like you’re walking on a cloud. This shoe came out at a perfect time as Kanye was making his transition from Nike to Adidas. The OG colorway above was constantly seen on his feet and once again, sneakerheads fell in love. To this day, the UltraBoost lives on as one of the best running shoes on the market and is worn by both professional athletes and average consumers. As far as running shoes are concerned, the UltraBoost could very well go down as not just the best of the decade, but the best of all-time, as well.
Nike Air Foamposite One “Galaxy”
While Foamposites don’t have the same allure as they once did, there is no denying that the silhouette helped give us one of the best shoes of the decade. During the All-Star weekend of 2012, Nike was preparing to give us an ultra-limited “Galaxy” colorway of the Nike Air Foamposite One. As soon as sneakerheads caught wind of this colorway, they lost their collective minds and became obsessive on release day. It was almost impossible to get your hands on these. In fact, copping these on the retail market was the sneakerhead equivalent of winning the lottery. As soon as these dropped, resale prices skyrocketed and to this day the shoe can be bought for over $1,500. Of course, dope/rare colorways are nothing new although the “Galaxy” Foamposite is interesting because it ushered in the reselling era. It was a shoe that sparked interesting from not just sneakerheads, but also those who believed there were some big profits to be made. These days, big releases are plagued by resellers who buy up all the stock with no interest in wearing the actual shoe. In many ways, you have the “Galaxy” Foamposite to thank for that.
Nike LeBron 8 “South Beach”
LeBron James had the whole world watching his every move during the summer of 2010 as he was preparing to make the biggest decision of his career. The superstar basketball player opted to leave his hometown team in order to pair up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Thanks to the city’s rich culture and vibrant colors, LeBron’s sneaker line reached new heights and inspired a whole generation to start buying basketball shoes, even if they didn’t play the sport. There is one model and colorway, in particular, that helped usher in this trend. Of course, I’m talking about the Nike LeBron 8 “South Beach” which features a turquoise and black upper along with neon pink accents. Throughout LeBron’s tenure in Miami, all of his shoes received the “South Beach” treatment which is a testament to the movement the LeBron 8 created. This one shoe helped inspire a generation of city-inspired colorways and for that reason alone, we have to include it on this list.
Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October”
What more can be said about the Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October.” At the time of its release in 2014, Kanye West’s departure from Nike was already a foregone conclusion. West was hard at work creating new silhouettes with Adidas and fans were left wondering what his next move would be. Luckily, Nike and West had one last trick up their sleeves and that trick was the “Red October.” The Air Yeezy 2 was already a highly-sought-after silhouette but when fans saw the monochromatic red colorway, they couldn’t resist. As for the release of the shoe, it was tumultuous, to say the least. A shock drop on Nike’s website took many by surprise and left others in the dirt. From there, some sneaker fanatics traveled across the country just to find a pair for retail. Now, the shoe costs upwards of $6,000 on the resale market and remains one of the greatest Yeezy sneakers of all-time. What makes this shoe so influential is that it started the trend of calling all monochromatic red shoes, “Red Octobers.” People will always associate the all-red aesthetic with West’s final Nike sneaker. Simply put, this shoe had a huge impact on sneaker culture that was able to last the entire decade.
Of all the sneakers on this list, this is definitely the biggest “novelty” shoe. Of course, the Nike MAG was a shoe worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future. The shoe was known for its auto-lacing capabilities and was always synonymous with the movie. In 2015, 80s nostalgia was at an all-time high and Nike decided to cash in by creating a functional version of the Nike MAG. Yes, that’s right, the good people at Nike figured out a way for your shoes to lace themselves. To celebrate, they recreated the iconic Nike MAG and made it available through a raffle. Very few pairs actually dropped and now the sneaker can be had for upwards of $50,000. What makes this shoe so decade-defining is how it influenced helped push sneaker technology forward. After the release of the Nike MAG, the brand began implementing the auto-lacing functionality into basketball shoes like the Nike Hyper Adapt and Adapt BB. This tech is even being used in lifestyle shoes like the Nike Adapt Huarache. Needless to say, the MAG is much more than some 80s novelty.
Nike Air Max 1/97 “Sean Wotherspoon”
Sean Wotherspoon’s infamous vintage streetwear store, Round Two, is a staple in the culture these days. The man was able to make a name for himself by selling ultra-rare pieces to big-name celebrities. His profile has made him a big name in the industry and of course, brands have taken notice. Throughout 2016 and 2017, Wotherspoon began to work with Nike on a huge sneaker collaboration. This collab eventually became the Nike Air Max 1/97 “Wotherspoon.” As the name suggests, the shoe merges the midsole of the Air Max 1, with the upper of the Air Max 97. The upper is covered in rainbow colors represented by a corduroy material. Fans immediately fell in love with this shoe when the teaser images were dropped in 2017. Upon release, Wotherspoon’s sneaker was immediately heralded as not just one of the best shoes of that year, but perhaps the best Air Max ever. To this day, people are still going head over heels for the collab. Sneakerheads have been begging Wotherspoon to hop back on the Nike train but for now, he appears to be focused on a new partnership with Adidas. Regardless, his Air Max 1/97 remains an instant classic.
Tom Sachs Nike Mars Yard
Storytelling and dope concepts were a staple of sneaker culture back in the 90s and early 2000s. Unfortunately, there was a period of time where colorways were being made for the hell of it and the whole storytelling aspect was lost. Thanks to Tom Sachs’ 2012 collab with Nike, the feeling was restored. This particular silhouette is called the Nike Mars Yard and was created with space travel in mind. Sachs contemplated what it would be like to walk on Mars and what kind of shoe would be needed for that. The brown and red aesthetic was made to match the colors you typically associate with the earth’s closest planetary relative. What made this collaboration so dope is that Sachs eventually came out with a re-work of the shoe a few years later after going back and experimenting with new materials. Both models of the Mars Yard sell for over $5,000 on the resale market and remain some of the best Nike shoes to come out of the decade. The entire silhouette is a one-of-a-kind creation and when you consider the storytelling elements involved, you’re left with a truly incredible shoe.
Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2
Kanye West’s run with Adidas has been well-documented. The Adidas Yeezy Boost 750 is the sneaker that started it all and for some of you, the 750 is the silhouette that should be on this list. While the 750 has a plethora of great qualities, it didn’t have the same staying power as the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2. Following up on the original 350 was no small task but West was able to do an expert job as he introduced the V2’s first colorway, the “Beluga.” Debuting in 2016, the 350 V2 became an instant smash amongst sneakerheads and there was plenty of hype to back that up. The first few colorways were almost impossible to get your hands on and were reselling for thousands of dollars on the resale market. Over the last few years, West has tried to make this shoe more accessible to the average consumer and in some ways, he has made good on that promise. Almost every month, the Yeezy brand unveils a new colorway and every single time, it sells out. This silhouette is undeniable and as we head into 2020, it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Off-White x Air Jordan 1 “Chicago”
What makes this shoe so phenomenal is the fact that it was able to unite both OG sneakerheads and hypebeasts everywhere. Prior to this sneaker, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White was a brand mostly known for its exorbitant prices and minimalist design. To this day, it remains a brand that is only accessible to those with an abundance of disposable income and a taste for streetwear with high-fashion principles. For these reasons, OG sneakerheads were a little skeptical when Abloh was called in to do a collaboration with Nike on 10 of their best silhouettes. While all 10 shoes were fantastic in their own right, the Off-White x Air Jordan 1 “Chicago” stuck out thanks to how well Abloh paid homage to such a classic sneaker. The iconic “Chicago” colors are perfectly intact while Abloh incorporates his signature DIY aesthetic. It truly feels like this shoe was stripped down to its bare essentials in order to create not just a sneaker but a work of art as well. This is easily one of the best collaborative sneakers of the decade and may go down as a top 10 Jordan ever. Even those who have never heard of Off-White can appreciate what this shoe is able to do. Not to mention, the $4000 resale price will surely have you doing a double-take. Aside from maybe the Yeezy 2 “Red October,” no other shoe was able to amass this much obsession and critical acclaim.
Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments below what your favorite shoes of the decade were.
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