A sleeper hit, the LeBron 10 made in collaboration with John Elliott is pitch-perfect to Elliott’s aesthetic. The JE brand is known for taking daily staples and elevating them, and rather than purely elevating the LeBron 10, Elliott distilled the sneaker to its constituent parts, taking the shoe from an earlier era and bringing it into the present. After that work was done, he went about utilizing the panels and pieces in black and white to create depth and implicit texture. At a quick glance it may not appear that there’s much to these kicks, but there are layers to them and they deserve recognition.
Kendrick Lamar moving from Reebok to Nike was a natural because Nike gave him the Cortez, and nary has a combination of sneaker and artist felt more seamless. Kendrick used the opportunity to put out a series of colorways inspired by his music and evolving identity, offering a range of aesthetics. The Cortez Kenny III is the best one yet. Black, white, and red play off classic sneaker colorways, but Lamar injected the sneakers with details like Chinese characters embroidered into the toe and "BET IT BACK" printed on the tongue ribbon. It's a brilliant pairing.
Each year in sneaker hierarchy can be measured in technical innovation just as well as hype or style. This year, Jordan Brand applied Flyknit technology to the Air Jordan III, a move that required amazing dexterity and development when it comes to creating new textures from the material. The III is famous for combining smooth and tumbled leathers with the legendary elephant skin print. Jordan was able to get all those textures, and more, in 3D out of the Flyknit, making for a sneaker—and a process—that combines old and new.
The AlphaBounce has been a great sneaker for Adidas, opening the brand up to runners on a tighter budget. But the AlphaBounce Beyond is a whole new level. The one shortcoming of the AlphaBounce was always aesthetics; it was often an overkill combination of textures, materials, and patterns. But the new AlphaBounce Beyond edits and elevates the look to the next level. The sole design fits seamlessly into the upper, each of them playing off the same textural motifs. An arch plug adds a little bit of surprise. The Beyond demands a few dollars more than its predecessor, but it also represents more than a couple extra steps in the right direction.
Have you ever wanted to order pizza but you couldn’t be bothered to reach for your phone? Pizza Hut solved that perennial challenge with its Pie Tops II, designed and manufactured by Shoe Surgeon. The sneakers have obvious retro sneaker inspiration, but the killer is that they are optimized with tech to order a pizza for you and then pause your TV when the delivery guy arrives. They may not satisfy your sneaker thirst, but they can satisfy your hunger.
We know there are a lot of Jordan IIIs on this list (It makes sense; it is one of the very best basketball sneakers of all time.), but these "International Flight" Jordan IIIs are amazing and worthy of attention. They're not doing anything crazy—on the contrary, it's a colorway that seems like it should have released years ago. What's surprising about this sneaker is the off-white leather that dominates the upper. Jordan Brand is known for its combinations of white, black, red, and blue, so these more subtler tones add a sort of aged quality to the look in a way that's more than welcome. These are by no means classics, but they deserve recognition.