Trainers, like Pokémon, are incredibly important. Unlike Pokémon, you can’t just pocket any pair you spot in the street. Which means the smart sneaker freak should be discerning. You can’t catch ’em all – but you should snap these up the second they appear.
Beauty Youth x Reebok Club C
This is Reebok’s 121st year in business, but only its third of finally being cool again. The Bolton brand has shrugged off playground stigma with some canny collaborations, not least its hook-ups with Japanese brand United Arrows. Last year, it blacked out the Insta Pump Fury, but 2016’s pairing, with sub-brand Beauty Youth, treads softer waters.
This is the year of the tennis shoe – we see you, Rod Laver – so it’s only fitting that the Club C, which first hit courts in 1986, should turn 30 in such grown-up style. The collab’s sandy suede uppers, embroidered labelling and debossed logo are subtle enough to work with your entire wardrobe, from suits to tennis shorts. So long as you don’t actually try to play a set in them.
Get it now: from around £100 (plus flights to Tokyo).
Nike Air Max LD-Zero H
From the brain of Hiroshi Fujiwara, godfather of Harajuku street fashion and top boy at design house Fragment, comes yet another instant classic.
The LD-Zero H combines the bubble cushion sole from the most recent Air Max with choice elements plucked from one of the Nike’s most played out silhouettes, the Roshe LD-1000. The coupling is so much more than the sum of its parts, it made us think Fujiwara could make Huaraches cool again. Maybe.
Navy trainers can be tough to style, but Fujiwara deftly manipulated tone, detail and technology to make this shoe really stand out – so much that it sold out almost immediately on its Air Max Day release. Bummer.
Get it now: from around £250 on resale.
From a brain that’s young, colourful, Russian. Gosha’s designs apply a who-gives-a-shit attitude to the obsessed-with-fitting-in world of fashion. We couldn’t be happier. Nor could the street kids who snapped up his collaboration with Reebok on the Phase One Pro – a reissue of the 1984 tennis shoe that became an NYC street classic.
Who can blame them? Subtle styling – a white and grey colourway and burnt orange Cyrillic stitching across the heel panel – and the fact they were almost impossible to get your hands on (or rather, feet in) makes this a pair of kicks to kick yourself for missing.
Get it now: from around £200 on resale.
NikeLab Air Max 1 Royal
NikeLab seems like a great place to work:
“What are we gonna do today?”
“Oh, shall we just make a luxe version of an already beloved trainer? Make it out of a single piece of premium nubuck, with super-sensitive, untreated Vachetta leather? The kind of stuff that develops a gorgeous, unreplicable patina over time?”
The simple detailing, combined with the rawness of the finish, meant Air Max heads don’t bat an eyelid at the £190 price tag. And frankly, nor should you.
Get it now: from Footpatrol, priced £190.
Adidas Originals Stan Smith PK
In a year dominated by punchy silhouettes given the luxe materials treatment, Adidas Originals went the other way and reworked its most iconic shoe in mesh. Simple, yes. But if you mess with a classic, a light touch pays off.
The Stan Smith is already perfect. So what can fiddling add? In the case of the PK, the mesh inserts drag the shoe into the future without sacrificing its clean aesthetic (which can sometimes happen when the Three Stripes goes full Primeknit).
And don’t miss the side-panelling nod to another court classic, the Rod Laver, which dropped only a couple of months later. Gotta rep the squad.
Get it now: from ASOS, priced £95.
Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro Low PRM
What’s Nike without the Swoosh? The PRM found out, with a Dunk-like Jordan 1 Low that scrubbed off the tick. Fans were split on the move – “How you gonna un-Nike a Nike?” – but we’re won over.
The PRM’s snakeskin-like upper injects prime materials with some serious personality and the Jordan 1 sole means your feet remain enveloped in cushioned comfort. It just goes to show that your mum was right: less really is more.
Get it now: from around £150 on resale.
BAIT x Diadora ‘Shrek’ N9000
If you had told us last year that one of the best shoes of the 2016 would be a Dreamworks-licensed Shrek tie-in with Diadora, we would have taken your beer and quietly poured it down the sink. Too much ethanol, mate.
And yet here we are. Diadora’s resurgence has earned widespread acclaim and this might just be the brand’s pinnacle. It’s a feature-packed kick: you get premium suede, apricot leather and a canvas and olive palette, with embroidered detailing on the tongue and heel and three kinds of high-quality laces – in natural, olive and ‘Shrek green’. Raise a glass.
Get it now: from around £200 on resale.
New Balance ML1550
New Balance can get a little bogged down on elements and ideas, which means its trainers can end up the kind of chunky mess that only dads love. Not so the Boston brand’s well-received 1550, which takes the best elements of siblings 1500 and 1600 and adds a streamlined, athletic silhouette.
The result? New Balance quality, but your shoes aren’t as heavy as a pair of Red Wings. Mesh construction, with suede overlays, sit atop New Balance’s feted REVlite sole, and the powder blue and blue-grey colourway calls to mind ocean surf – and drunkenly dawbing at your trainers at 4am trying to get a stain off.
Get it now: from FootLocker, priced £84.99.
Nike Air More Uptempo
There’s literally nothing subtle about the More Uptempo. Not even the name. It sounds like it’s something to be shouted by a worse-for-wear nightclub manager at his beleaguered DJ.
Another reissue – because sneakers, dear reader, are cyclical – the jumbo styling of NBA legend Scottie Pippen’s Dream Team II shoe made it a hit 20 years ago. And what a perfect time for it to come back.
The navy accents; the white ‘AIR’ that runs all the way along the shoe, in perspective-challenging size; Pippen’s 8 stitched onto the heel; all help make this one of the decade’s sneaker stand-outs.
Get it now: from around £130 on resale.
Puma Clyde Select ‘Away’
And now one of the quietest. If the Uptempo screams for more bass, the Clyde Select whispers, “I enjoy French movies and buying Gitanes off eBay and listening to the rain and pretending to enjoy tennis.”
The shoe’s barely changed since its 1974 debut. But then, that navy and creme suede, the off-white midsole, its premium gold-leaf lettering and that killer calligraphy ‘Clyde’ – not one element has dated.
Those same details saw it become an ever-present in early Californian skate culture and are why we still want it now. The ultra-limited ‘Home Away’ pack might look unassuming, but it’s one for the real connoisseurs.
Get it now: from around £135 (plus flights to New York).