What’s up, y’all? We’re officially days away from the New Year and as promised, I wanted to share my list of the Top 10 sneakers of 2023! The year had no shortage of hype releases, reimagined drops, new silhouettes and frankly WTF offerings (I’m talking about you, MSCHF Big Red Boots).
Anyway, here are the pairs that cut through the noise and made it to the highly coveted end-of-the-year list. Let’s get right into it with some of the usual suspects and a few picks you might’ve overlooked.
10. Union LA x Bephies Beauty Supply x Nike Air Jordan 1 High OG
Release date: Aug. 24, 2023
The Union LA x Bephies Beauty Supply x Nike Air Jordan 1s were the sleeper collab of the year if you ask me. Boasting woven stitching across its unique upper construction, the sneaker resembles a baseball mitt and is the opposite of anything people expected from another Union LA and Air Jordan 1 partnership. That design and left-field thinking paid off and was enough to secure a spot on my list.
9. Cactus Plant Flea Market x Nike Air Flea 2
Release date: Oct. 18, 2023
One thing you can count on from the ever-elusive, but always culturally present, Cactus Plant Flea Market is an interesting Nike silhouette. They always push the norm in terms of shape and what’s acceptable for a Nike drop, but the sneaker game is better for it. The Air Flea 2s are a work of art with their oversized tire tread-level soles, removable Swoosh and detachable pins.
8. Martine Rose x Nike Shox Mule MR4 “Safety Orange”
Release date: July 27, 2023
Making its second appearance on my annual Top 10 list, albeit one slot higher this year, is the Martine Rose x Nike Shox Mule MR4 in the orange colorway. It’s the only hybrid high-fashion drop to make the cut this time because Martine Rose continues to make waves. Rose shakes up the status quo in both fashion and sneaker design from her Nike Monarchs to the Mule MR4, which is an elegant offering rooted in performance. From a commercial and critical standpoint, this shoe is easily one of the defining silhouettes of the year and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
7. The Powerpuff Girls x Nike SB Dunk Low
Release date: Dec. 15, 2023
Sugar, spice and everything nice collide to celebrate 25 years of Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup — better known as The Powerpuff Girls. What’s not to love about the colorful trio of SB Dunk Lows that highlight the Powerpuff Girls’ characteristics and include unique details such as Mojo Jojo insoles and big eyes on the heels? Collaborations like this always invoke that childhood nostalgia and playfulness from when watching cartoons was a way of life.
6. Joe Freshgoods x New Balance 990v4 “Keisha Blue”
Release date: Dec. 15, 2023
Joe Freshgoods also returns to my list this year with another New Balance collab: The 990v4 in “Keisha Blue.” Paying homage to Keisha from the cult classic film Belly, Freshgoods serves up the 990v4 silhouette in an electric blue hue that evokes the movie’s opening scene and the late ’90s era. Sneakers aside, Freshgoods hit it out of the park with the pair’s storytelling and rollout, which included taking over the New Balance website and visuals, and an interview with the woman who inspired the drop. These details were just the icing on the cake.
5. Nike Kobe 6 Protro “Reverse Grinch”
Release date: Dec. 15, 2023
The Nike Kobe 6 Protro “Reverse Grinch” marks the first time a performance basketball sneaker makes my list. After being teased for two years, this shoe finally touched down just in time for the holiday season. Its Mamba-scaled upper in the bright red colorway with the Kobe logo on the tongue ensured it would be one of the year’s most coveted drops. It’s also great to see Nike showing renewed commitment and support toward the Kobe brand.
4. Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 Retro Low OG SP “Olive”
Release date: April 26, 2023
It was a quieter-than-usual year for Travis Scott on the sneaker front, but he continues to dominate with his Air Jordan 1 Lows. This year, he released the Air Jordan 1 Retro Low OG SP “Olive” in women’s sizing, but that didn’t stop everyone from wanting a pair. At this point, the Scott and Air Jordan 1 collaboration is a failproof recipe for success. With the sneaker’s reverse Swoosh and distinct color pairings, its olive colorway is just the latest pair to evoke that feeling.
3. Tiffany & Co. x Nike Air Force 1 Low “1837”
Release date: March 7, 2023
The first-ever collaboration between Nike and Tiffany & Co. was one of the most divisive sneaker releases of the year; the discourse reached a fever pitch when they dropped. Many hated the black suede upper and minimalist details, while others thought it hit a note of quiet luxury. Now at the end of the year, after the hype has died down, I can proudly state that the Tiffany & Co. x Nike Air Force 1s were one of the best sneakers of 2023. There’s just something about the weighty black suede and sterling silver piece on the heel that denoted luxury. The Tiffany & Co. blue Swoosh, and blue and yellow laces also made them worth all the noise. They also hold up very well after multiple wears on the resell side of things. If you know, you know!
2. Air Jordan 3 “White Cement” Reimagined
Release date: March 11, 2023
The Air Jordan 3 “White Cement” Reimagined is a no-brainer on the list. An OG silhouette updated with vintage vibes courtesy of its yellowing midsole and iconic elephant print? Check. Classic Nike Air branding at the heel with splashes of “Fire Red” that mimic that original? Check. A more than generous stock inventory that ensures almost everyone can get a pair? Also, check. Even with the complaints of mismatched elephant print on a few pairs, the Air Jordan 3 Reimagined still takes the runner-up spot.
1. Nike SB x Air Jordan 4 Retro SP “Pine Green”
Release date: March 21, 2023
How does a skateboarding-inspired take on an iconic Jordan 4 silhouette take the No. 1 spot on my top sneakers of the year list? Easily. With quality details like leather, suede and its rubber upper construction, a crisp blend of white, grey and pine green coloring, and the Nike SB logo at its heel — its most distinctive detail — the Nike SB x Air Jordan 4 Retro SP effortlessly earns the top spot. There was no competition when these hit the streets.