It’s been a decade of exponential growth in the sneaker industry. Once an underground community, the sneaker scene has become a part of mainstream society, with the last 10 years highlighting a big change in consumer interests and style. Supreme has become a household name, Yeezys are now releasing once a week and an entirely new demographic of sneakerheads has come to the forefront. Kids have become resellers, with people like Benjamin Kickz becoming a self-made millionaire by the time he was 16 years old.
Just think how different the sneaker community was close to 10 years ago. Kanye West was still with Nike, Virgil Abloh wasn’t a household name yet and inventions like Flyknit and Ultra Boost had not even been created. Balenciaga’s garish Triple S silhouette became a staple part of any sneakerheads rotation. Dad shoes became a thing, with the New Balance 990 and Nike Monarch making their way to the haute couture floors of Paris Fashion Week.
Collaborations and artist sneakers made waves that no one could have expected. Kaws x Air Jordan, Pharrell Williams x adidas and Travis Scott x Nike have become some of the most sought after shoes in history. No longer were athletes the ones that were making money for big sneaker business, but musicians and creatives were finally getting their chance to show just how successful their sneakers could truly be.
There was excitement over the possibility of what to come in the 2010s, and it did not disappoint. This decade more than ever there has been a number of releases that has reignited a level of hype not seen in a while. Here at KLEKTIVE, we’ve been watching on over the past decade with great delight. Now the time has come, however, to pick our top 10 sneakers over the past 10 years. We’ve gone back into the archives to see what we could find and we’ve got a list that we think you’re going to love.
These are in no particular order as it was difficult enough picking just 10! Without further delay, let’s get started and take a look at at the top 10 sneakers of the decade.
Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low (2012)
Fewer brands have had a stronger time in the past 10 years than Supreme. The small independent skate store has gone from an underground brand with a cult-like following to being valued at over $1 billion. It’s collaborations with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Nike and Jordan have gained it an unparalleled level of success amongst the fashion and footwear worlds.
2002 was the first time that Nike and Supreme worked together. The New York skate store created a Nike SB Dunk Low and used the elephant print found on the Air Jordan 3, the first time Nike had placed this print on another sneaker. In 2012, however, the two were celebrated the 10th birthday of the Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low and reissued the same design with a few updates.
Whilst the original Supreme Nike Dunks used either a black or white upper, this time Supreme decked the classic sneaker out in a fire red colourway. The same elephant print made a return to the panels and Supreme had some unique signatures such as custom insoles and a tag that featured the “World Famous” tagline.
As expected, these sold out pretty much immediately and have since gone on to become quite a rare pair for any Supreme collector.
Nike x Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 97/1 VF (2018)
2016 saw Nike introduced the Vote Back campaign in which one of its most famous Air Max models would be reintroduced for the following Air Max Day. In 2017, Nike took things one step further and introduced the Vote Forward campaign, in which one winning design from the Nike community would be made for Air Max Day 2018. That winner was Round Two owner, Sean Wotherspoon.
Wotherspoon’s instantly recognisable design was a flashback to the 90s, using distinctive colour palettes and corduroy to create a sneaker that has since gone in history. Blending the Air Max 97 upper with the sole unit of the Air Max 1 was no easy job, but somehow these sneakers managed to do just that perfectly. Air Max 97/1s? Air Max 1/97s? Who knows. Whatever these are, they are a without a doubt one of the most important sneakers of the decade purely for the story and community aspect.
The Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 97 is now one of the most desirable sneakers around and, since Nike revealed that the two would no longer be working alongside each other, the value has only increased.
Nike Air Foamposite One ‘Galaxy’ (2012)
One of the earliest sneakers to create a huge level of divide was the Nike Air Foamposite. The Foamposite, in itself, is a feat of technology for Nike. Originally debuted in 1997 by Mike Bibby who was playing for the Arizona Wildcats, the Foamposite’s story is one that we could talk about for hours. However, we are here to talk about one distinct colourway that caused quite a stir in the sneaker community.
In 2012, during All-Star Weekend, Nike unveiled a Foamposite One colourway that was simply out of this world. The ‘Galaxy’ Foamposites were one of the biggest sneaker drops of the year and featured a unique paint job, depicting the cosmos. A tag on the tongue that reads “Remove Before Flight.” Queues began to form around the world, with people camping out overnight to get their hands on a pair.
One guy on Reddit was even willing to swap his car for a pair of Galaxy Foamposites in a size 10.5 (yep, you read that right). We want to know if someone was willing to take him up on the deal or if he’s still waiting to cop.
adidas Ultra Boost (2015)
adidas introduced the world to Boost Technology in 2013 when it unveiled Energy Boost. Comprised of thousands of particles that work together to create a positive energy return when running, adidas would go onto change the world of running and fashion forever. After two successful years of this technology, adidas created the Ultra Boost; a seamless blend of lifestyle design and precision running innovation.
This shoe became so popular thanks to none other than Kanye West. In 2015, Kanye and Nike had a pretty plutonic breakup, with Yeezus signing to the three stripes not long after. A performance at Power 106s “Powerhouse” concert saw Yeezy don the adidas Ultra Boost on stage, leaving many fans wondering what were the mysterious sneakers Kanye had on. The shoes would go on to create a global phenomenon, with special edition pairs selling for crazy prices.
The technology behind the shoe would also go on to power Kanye’s own adidas sneaker line, showing just how successful they were at the mass market. If you’ve ever put your foot in an Ultra Boost, you’ll know how good that comfortability is. If not, what have you been doing for the past seven years?
Off-White™ x Nike Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ (2017)
It would be hard to go through this list and not mention this sneaker. When rumours began to circulate that Virgil Abloh, founder of clothing label Off-White™, would be working with Nike, the sneaker community was intrigued. Under Abloh, Off-White™ had collaborated with the likes of Moncler and it was now becoming one of the most talked-about brands in the fashion industry.
In 2016, Nike approached Abloh to reimagine 10 of its most iconic sneakers in a collection dubbed ‘The Ten.’ The vast array of shoes included the likes of the Nike Air Max 90, Nike Air Presto, Nike Air Force 1 and Nike Zoom Fly. Abloh had reimagined the shoes in a way that had never been seen before, adding his own design influence and elements to create a collection that will be remembered as one of the greatest of all time. However, there is one sneaker in particular that will go down in history.
Abloh, a Chicago native, was given the opportunity to rework the classic Nike Air Jordan 1. Having grown up watching Michael Jordan in his home city, Abloh created his own version of the iconic ‘Chicago’ colourway of the Air Jordan 1. The Off-White™ designer took the basic elements of the colourway and created something entirely new. The traditional leather was replaced with mesh material on most of the upper, the flaps of the ankle were left exposed and foam material was visible on the tongue and heel collar.
Abloh had used elements of Off-White™ in the form of printed text placed throughout the sneaker; with a large print on the medial side of the shoe and the midsole unit that read “AIR.” A zip tie was also included on the laces which featured the Off-White™ logo branding.
The release was one of the most hyped shoes of the decade, leaving fans paying well above the £160 retail price. As the popularity of the sneaker only rises, the price does too, with resell well into the thousands.
Nike Air Yeezy II (2012)
Kanye West is without a doubt one of the most influential people in the world. His music, style and sneakers have always been a hot topic in pop culture. In 2009, Nike announced that it would be working with Kanye West on its first-ever non-athlete sneaker collaboration. After the success of his Nike Air Yeezy, Kanye and Nike would join forces again to launch its successor, aptly named the Nike Air Yeezy II, in 2012.
Working together with Mark Smith, Kanye West took a new approach to designing the Yeezy II. An animalistic approach was taken to the design and featured a scaled leather on the lateral panel, a new feature on Yeezys. Influences from Egyptian culture were found throughout the sneaker, with the god Horus placed on the tongue and insole and hieroglyphics that spelt out “YZY” underneath the strap.
Dropping in two colourways (at first), Pure Platinum and Solar Red, the shoe caused waves of excitement around the world. Campouts were popping up outside the stores that stocked the shoe, with fans of the sneaker waiting anywhere up to a week to get their hands on the latest Kanye West sneaker. In 2014, shortly after Kanye departed for adidas, Nike shock dropped the Red October colourway but more about that later.
This shoe marks an important period in sneaker culture for a number of reasons. It was Kanye’s signature at Nike and has since only grown in value, demand and hype. For many sneakerheads, it marked a time when Kanye was unapologetically Kanye, creating a legacy in his footwear that would last a lifetime.
Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard (2012/2017)
In 2012, Nike recruited American artist Tom Sachs to help them build a shoe based on Sach’s interactions with NASA’s specialised science teams. Sachs created high-performance equipment for his SPACE PROGRAM 2.0: Mars exhibition and worked alongside Nike to craft some of the most innovative pieces in the brand’s history.
Fans who were lucky enough to attend the Space Camp in 2012 managed to get their hands on a pair of the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard. An upper constructed with Vectran, a material that is lighter and stronger than most polyesters, as well as a midsole with distinct elements made the sneaker eye-catching. Cream, beige and red was a throwback to Nike’s early vintage era.
However, in 2017 Nike announced that it would be remaking the sneaker with some much-needed updates. After five years, Sachs and his team had realised that there were some alterations that needed to be made to make the shoe perfect. Replacing Vectran with a light mesh helped to improve breathability and structural issues were rectified to make the sneaker better than ever.
The story behind the Tom Sachs Nike Mars Yard sneaker is what has made it such a big hit in the sneaker community. Though no one could have predicted that it would eventually sell for well into the thousands, the technology combined with the exclusivity is what has made the sneaker such a big success. With a 2019 restock/reissue set to take place, you can expect the hype for these to carry over well into the new decade.
adidas Yeezy 350 Boost ‘Turtle Dove’ (2015)
When Kanye West left Nike for adidas in 2013, it shook the sneaker world to its core. Kanye’s Air Yeezy line was one of the most impactful of the 2000s and early 2010s, but his departure from Nike to adidas was, and still is, one of the most talked-about moments in sneaker history.
Under adidas, Kanye was able to create his own sub-brand that gave him full reign over what the new Yeezy sneakers would look like. Having publicly denounced Nike and Mark Parker, Kanye was only adding to the hype of his new venture with adidas. Whilst the adidas Yeezy 750 Boost may have been a new luxury take on the Nike Air Yeezy line, the adidas Yeezy 350 Boost was something completely new.
Having debuted at the Yeezy fashion show during New York Fashion Week, the Yeezy 350 was nothing like Kanye’s sneakers of the past. A low top design, which used a monochromatic palette, featured a Primeknit upper with adidas’ Boost technology on the sole. It was easy to wear, whether going to work or to the club, a functionality that was not evident in the Kanye x Nike range.
Nicknamed the ‘Turtle Dove’, the first adidas Yeezy 350 Boost was one of the most important sneaker releases of the year and the decade for so many reasons. It quickly sold out and became one of the most coveted shoes of the year, with resell prices hitting some eye-watering numbers.
Nike Mag (2011/2016)
There are few sneakers that are as highly coveted in the sneaker world than the Nike Mag. In 1988, Tinker Hatfield was recruited to create a sneaker that was almost 30 years in the future but used today’s technology.
Originally made for the 1989 film Back to the Future, the Nike Mag was first seen on Michael J. Fox who played Marty McFly in the films. The Mag, which stands for “Magnetic Anti-Gravity”, sees a number of elements that drew sneakerheads to it. In the film, McFly puts his foot in the sneaker which then proceeds to light up and auto lace. For many, it was a great sneaker. For die-hard fans, however, it was a sneaker that needed a comeback.
2011 saw the Nike Mag make its reappearance, much to the delight of sneakerheads. 1,510 and pairs were made, all of which were sold via auction on eBay. Prices varied anywhere from $2,300 – $9,959, with all of the money being donated to Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s Foundation. Whilst the 2011 Nike Mag had generated a lot of hype, the shoes were left without one distinctive feature; the auto-lacing.
Four years later, Hatfield had stumbled across an online petition that asked for the sneaker to make a return in its original form. Hatfield gave the job to Tiffany Beers, an engineer who had worked on sneakers such as the Nike HyperAdapt. In an interview online, Beers explained how Hatfield had asked her if she was interested in a special project, though he never explained just what it was. “It’s to remake the Back to the Future shoe, what do you think?” Hatfield later told her. “There’s a shoe in the archives, go get it, figure it out.”
After thousands of hours of work and starting again three times, in 2015 the sneaker was returned in its full glory, complete with auto lacing. 89 pairs of the classic sneaker were produced, with fans having to make a small donation to enter the raffle to win. Private auctions were held around the world and the sneaker release helped to raise $6.75 million for the Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Foundation.
The Nike Mag is more than just about one of the most instantly recognisable sneakers making a comeback. It is about using sneakers as a way to make a difference. We, for one, are all for it.
Nike Air Yeezy II ‘Red October’ (2014)
Ok, we know, this is technically cheating, but we couldn’t not mention the Red Octobers as a solo entry on this list. As many of you will know, this drop was one of the most unexpected of the decade purely because of the way in which it was carried out. If you have been in this game long enough you will know that this story is now folklore, if you are new then get ready to be amazed.
Although Nike had actually planned to release the Red Octobers in late 2013, things did not work out. The sneakers had been spotted on some of Kanye’s close friends and family, and fans were beginning to get excited about the possible release of the all red silhouette. After months of speculation, Nike PR Director Heidi Burgett announcing that the sneaker would release later than expected and pairs even being seen on Kanye, the sneaker release was not to be.
In 2013, Kanye West had a pretty dramatic exit from Nike, to say the least. Having launched the Nike Air Yeezy II just one year prior, things began to take a dramatic turn for Kanye and the Swoosh’s relationship. West revealed that the relationship had begun to break down due to the fact he was unable to collect royalties from the sale of his Nike Air Yeezys as he was not an athlete. Across multiple platforms, West began to publicly call out Mark Parker, Nike and just about anyone else who got in his way.
Kanye left Nike for adidas in late 2013, around the time that the Red Octobers were expected to release. The sneaker community was left deflated, to say the least. Owning a pair of Red Octobers became a pipe dream that many knew would never happen. Right up until one Sunday in February that shocked the sneaker world to its foundations.
“The Nike Air Yeezy 2 is now available” the tweet from Nike read on Sunday 9th, February 2014. Eight words that would create an unprecedented level of hype and eight words that almost broke the Internet. Fans from every corner of the globe were trying to get their hands on a pair, using any laptop, phone or tablet possible to do so. The news was met with joy and despair. Many sneakerheads were met with disappointment whilst a select few were greeted with joy. Nike had the last laugh, dropping one of Kanye’s most celebrated shoes at its own will.
Kanye may have since apologised to Nike and Mark Parker, but the story behind the Red October drop is what made the legacy all the better. There was no way that this sneaker could not be discussed on its own, it was simply too big too miss.
There was simply too much choice for this list and whittling it down to just 10 has been a tough task. However, we didn’t feel that it would be fair to leave out some of the greatest sneakers of the decade, so we’ve made a list of some of the sneakers that we talked about at KLEKT HQ but that didn’t quite make the list of the top 10.
- Nike Air Max 90 Independence Day (2013)
- adidas Yeezy 750 Boost OG (2015)
- Sacai x Nike LDWaffle (2019)
- VLONE x Nike Air Force 1 (2017)
- adidas Ultra Boost Uncaged x Parley ‘For the Oceans’ (2016)
- Air Jordan 1 ‘Rust Pink’ (2018)
- Air Jordan 1 ‘Igloo’ (2018)
- OVO Air Jordan 12 (2016)
- Nike Flyknit (2012)
- fragment design x Air Jordan 1 (2014)
- Balenciaga Triple S (2017)
- adidas Ultra Boost 4D (2017)
- Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 High (2019)
- Ronnie Fieg x Asics Gel-Lyte III ‘Salmon Toe’ (2011)
- Pharrell Williams x adidas NMD Hu ‘Yellow’ (2016)
- Colette x Air Jordan 1 (2017)
- Off-White™ x Nike Air Presto (2017)
- Nike LeBron 8 ‘South Beach’ (2010)
- Nike Air Foamposite One ‘Paranorman’ (2012)
With so many great sneakers dropping over the last 10 years, it’s been tough to pick a select few. With the start of a new decade fast approaching, we are already excited to see what else is in store. As new technologies begin to make their way into everyday life, we are sure that we will see some new innovations in the sneaker industry. More artists will get their chance at creating signature sneakers and we are sure that there will be more dramas in the community. Virgil to adidas? Kanye to Reebok? Travis to Puma? Who knows what the future holds. Whatever the case, we’re sticking around for the ride.