2018 was an intense year for sneakers. We started the year heavy on the chunky soles and dad shoe trend, and, as the year wraps up, we're getting more into personalized pairs. White sneakers are appearing across every market, acting as canvases for amateur creatives to leave a personal touch on their kicks. Meanwhile, brands have also been focused on blending the past and the future; you’ll find this list is populated with shoes that draw inspiration or elements from the '80s and '90s, but play with them in very contemporary ways. And while technology used to be about running away from the past, the sneakers in 2018 show us that we can use it as a launching pad. This is our list of the best sneakers of 2018.
After initially teased in collaboration with Undercover, the Element React 87 became one of the most highly anticipated sneakers of the summer. The shoe combines the sole tech of the React with an innovative translucent upper that reflects some subtler trends in the sneaker industry. The shoes have only released in the black and white versions, each selling out whip quick. Expect Nike to roll out a ton more colorways of this sneaker. Nike has been hurting for a win like this. They finally got it.

The Air Jordan XI Concord is one of the most famous sneakers of all time—not even for basketball or Jordans, but of all time. It's not just that they're a total 10 out of 10 on aesthetics, but they also carry cultural weight that few other sneakers can. It was the Concord release in 2011 that brought sneaker culture into the center of the wider conversation, and that news-cycle changed everything for sneakerheads all over the world. Suddenly we were on the national news, and even though it was for bad reasons (riots, violence, theft), the world was finally paying attention. This release was much easier to get than the 2011 pair, but they still hold the same significance.
The past decade of sneaker culture has been all about making a statement, and we’re approaching the end of how much the community is willing to continue that trend. We’re nearing a future that demands subdued aesthetics, making the Mocha III release from Jordan Brand perfectly timed. The Jordan III will never go out of style, but the Mocha has often been forgotten—it’s just not a visually exciting sneaker. A white upper includes the traditional combination of smooth and tumbled leathers, with a heel wrap and details done up in brown. “Brown shoe” is typically code for dressier (or more boring) shoes, explaining why we rarely see the shade on sneakers, but with the culture moving back towards minimalist color schemes, now is the perfect time for the return of the Mochas.

The sentiment that Real Men Wear Pink was proven with the Comme des Garçons Air Max 180s. In a trio of pink scale sneakers, each version is fresher than the last. It offers a range of executions, from the subtlest black and pink to a full-on exploration of how many shades can fit on a single shoe. They sold out immediately and continue to break necks for those who were lucky enough to grab pairs.
The Air Jordan XI Concord is one of the most famous sneakers of all time—not even for basketball or Jordans, but of all time. It's not just that they're a total 10 out of 10 on aesthetics, but they also carry cultural weight that few other sneakers can. It was the Concord release in 2011 that brought sneaker culture into the center of the wider conversation, and that news-cycle changed everything for sneakerheads all over the world. Suddenly we were on the national news, and even though it was for bad reasons (riots, violence, theft), the world was finally paying attention. This release was much easier to get than the 2011 pair, but they still hold the same significance.
The UltraBoost has been a homerun for Adidas year after year, but sometimes we wonder if the three stripes is resting on its laurels with that one. This year, it offered a refreshing update: the UltraBoost Clima. It quickly followed up with a Parley for the Oceans collaboration. The Clima version of the UltraBoost utilizes breathability for a ton of added texture without disrupting the silhouette that's made the sneaker so popular. The blue Parley yarn is a welcome injection of color into the otherwise entirely neutral sneaker. Plus, because the yarn is made from ocean waste, each pair of these shoes represents a cleaner planet.
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