Suffice to say, 2021 was the year that we were all hoping to re-enter the world in grand style. While it may not have been quite the return we were hoping for, the shoes were ready to go. Once again Nike delivered big this year, driven by the unwavering popularity of the Dunk, and New Balance also rose to the occasion with new silhouettes and sought-after returns. Meanwhile, collaborative heroes like Sean Wotherspoon and Salehe Bembury made headlines once again. Here are the sneakers that stood out to us most in 2021.
1. Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Stars’
Supreme and Nike have a long storied history so it was almost guaranteed that Supreme was going to deliver something special when it took its eye to the Nike SB Dunk Low – one of the most sought-after shoes of the year. The Nike Dunk really hit its stride last year but Supreme waited until 2021 to make its mark with a four colour drop.
Each shoe takes snakeskin-like overlays and pairs it with gold stars. The shoes are playful and yet they also look luxurious, matching the price tag that is now attached to them on sneaker resellers. The Supreme logo on the laces is just the cherry on top, ensuring the streetwear hero lives up to its name as one of the most-logo dependent around.
Colourway: BLACK/METALLIC GOLD-WHITE
Retail Price: USD$110
Release Date: 03/04/2021
2. Yeezy 450 ‘Cloud White’
Every year people scratch their heads when a new Yeezy silhouette drops, met with both anticipation and horror. And yet, every year, the silhouette manages to etch itself in the minds of all sneakerheads, creating more instant sellout moments. The one that rose above this year was the Yeezy 450 ‘Cloud White’. The shoe continues Kanye’s love of the sock-like shoe while also seeking a futuristic look.
The two-piece construction of this shoe is incredibly minimal but the sole is a showstopper, clasping the shoe like a claw. Inside, it houses EVA foam for comfort, continuing the Yeezy tradition of delivering the comfiest shoes around.
Colourway: CLOUD WHITE/CLOUD WHITE
Retail Price: USD$200
Release Date: 03/06/2021
3. Off White x Nike Dunk Low ‘Dear Summer’
One of Virgil Abloh’s final collaborations with Nike before he tragically passed was also one of his most ambitious. There were 50 different colourways released as part of the ‘Dear Summer’ collection, combining bold, often fluorescent colours with a white and grey base. That is all except one of the colourways which acted as a golden ticket of sorts, boasting a metallic silver Swoosh.
As always Off White brought a reconstructed look to the Nike Dunk Low. It sports an oversized tag and elastic laces which carry the majority of the colour on the shoe. The release was just as surprising as the shoes themselves, with exclusive members who use the SNKRS app frequently invited to purchase. They weren’t, however, able to choose the colourway.
Release Date: 08/10/2021
SKU: DM1602 127
Designer: Peter Moore
Colourway: White/Metallic Silver/Butter
4. New Balance x Aime Leon Dore 550
New Balance knew it was onto something special with the reintroduction of the 550 and Aime Leon Dore was the perfect partner to take them into the public sphere. The vintage basketball shoe was delivered by Aime Leon Dore in ‘Green’, ‘Red’, ‘Grey’ and ‘Navy’, tapping into a distinctively retro look.
2021 marked the first time the shoes have hit the shelves since its debut in 1989, not that they spent long on the shelves at all. Despite a number of restocks, the shoes have continued to sell at a remarkable pace with fans embracing the transition from basketball shoe to lifestyle shoe. No other silhouette looked quite as clean this year.
Retail Price: USD$130
Release Date: 10/09/2020
5. Jordan 4 Retro ‘University Blue’
The Air Jordan 4 had a moment this year but it was the ‘University Blue’ that really shone through. Maybe it’s because the ‘University Blue’ was a winning colourway across many Nike releases this year or maybe it’s because this release mimics an incredibly rare pair of Jordans. It’s a nod to Michael Jordan’s university and is reminiscent of a pair that was given to students of Tarheel back in 2019. Its popularity could also come down to the fact that it’s just a really nice looking shoe. The ‘University Blue’ collides effortlessly with the grey speckled overlays and is cut through by the stark black overlays.
Colourway: UNIVERSITY BLUE/TECH GREY-WHITE-BLACK
Retail Price: USD$200
Release Date: 04/28/2021
6. Bad Bunny x Adidas Forum Low
As the most streamed artist globally on Spotify this year, it’s unsurprising that Bad Bunny was able to conjure one of the most sought-after sneaker releases of the year. Adidas has put plenty of energy into relaunching the Forum this year and Bad Bunny certainly got it plenty of press. Brown was a noteworthy colour throughout all fashion this year and this shoe dabbled almost solely in the colour. The Forum is already a strong silhouette but Bad Bunny’s take benefits from some extra detail like the industrial clasp and the extra-padded heel.
Colourway: BROWN/DARK BROWN
Retail Price: USD$160
Release Date: 03/17/2021
7. Sean Wotherspoon x Adidas Superturf Adventure
At this point, Sean Wotherspoon is a sneaker superstar. His Nike Air Max 97 collaboration is one of the most impressive sneaker collaborations in recent history but this year he had his sites mostly on adidas. As always, he delivered an eco-friendly shoe tailor-made for the outdoors with a playful aesthetic. He took corduroy to the brand new silhouette and gifted it a pouch over the laces making it one of the most instantly eye-catching releases of the year.
Retail Price: USD$160
Release Date: 09/25/2021
8. Salehe Bembury x New Balance 574 Yurt
Salehe Bembury lands on this list for a second year with a New Balance collaboration. Last year’s New Balance 220 stayed a little closer to the original silhouette but with the 574 Yurt, he lets loose. The 574 is one of the most notorious silhouettes out there but under the eye of Bembury it became one of the most innovative. Keeping with a classic grey colourway, he gets imaginative with the details including a built-in whistle.
Colourway: TEAM FOREST GREEN/BURGUNDY
Retail Price: $150
Release Date: 10/22/2021
9. Nike Go FlyEase
The Nike GO FlyEase stood out for its innovation this year. It was Nike’s first-ever hands-free shoe, using a tensioner band and a bi-stable hinge to lock the shoe into an open position. It’s then up to you to step down and lock it onto the foot. It’s surely just the beginning for this innovative sneaker technology.
Colourway: WHITE/CELESTINE BLUE/VOLT
Retail Price: USD$120
Release Date: 02/15/2021
10. Casablanca x New Balance XC-72
Parisian brand Casablanca and New Balance managed to make a distinctively classic shoe with a brand new silhouette, the XC–72. Inspired by the technological optimism of the 1970s automotive industry, the XC-72 is both sleek and innovative, splitting the outsole down the centre between the XC15’s ‘gripper’ and the 375’s studded pattern. Casablanca had a number of excellent collaborations with New Balance this year but there’s something particularly beautiful about the combination of orange, green and white on these.
Retail Price: USD$150
Release Date: 08/27/2021
11. Nike x Sacai Blazer Low
Sacai was seeing double this year, taking the classic Blazer Low silhouette and bringing it into the future. The shoe looks like it’s been printed twice at slightly different positions, doubling up on both the Swoosh and the tongue. Throughout the year it was delivered in a number of different silhouettes from the safer white-based drops to the bolder iteration as KAWS was added to the mix.
Release Date: 2021-06-11
SKU: DD1877 001
12. Nike x Patta Air Max 1
It’s hard to mess with the Air Max 1 successfully but Patta pulled it off this year. Sneakerheads everywhere were after a pair of these which brought the Air Max 1 into a new era with a brand new wavey pattern on the mudguard. It’s a simple addition but for an iconic silhouette, it’s enough to make it truly stand out.
Colourway: METALLIC SILVER/MONARCH-PURE PLATINUM
Retail Price: USD$160
Release Date: 10/15/2021
13. Maison Margiela x Reebok Club C
You don’t often think about Reebok as luxury fashion but you do when Maison Margiela is involved. It took the Club C into a new pricepoint, using one single piece of leather on the upper which was then printed with a scanned image of the original Club C. It’s an optical illusion that can look both simplistic and incredibly complicated.
Release Date: 03/23/2021
14. Yeezy Knit Runner
As we mentioned above, Yeezy releases can be polarising at the best of times, particularly when it basically looks like a sock. The Yeezy Knit Runner to the eye looks like a shapeless sock but look a little closer and it’s a feat of genius innovation. There’s no stitching to be seen on the upper while the sole seamlessly hugs the bottom of the shoe. Maybe it’s not the prettiest shoe of the year but you have to admire the desire to push sneaker silhouettes further.
Retail Price: USD$200
Release Date: 09/23/2021
15. Air Jordan 11 ‘Cool Grey’
The Air Jordan 11 is often overshadowed by rarer Jordans but the ‘Cool Grey’ may have reignited it amongst sneakerheads. Returning for the first time since 2010, it’s the first time this hugely popular colourway has been produced with the updated Air Jordan 11 mould. Patent leather and smooth nubuck on the upper complement the colours beautifully, helping us get excited about the 11 once again.
Colorway: MEDIUM GREY/MULTI-COLOR/MULTI-COLOR
Retail Price: USD$225
Release Date: 12/11/2021
What is the most popular sneaker in 2021?
According to NikeShoeBot, the best selling show of 2021 is the Nike Dunk Low White Black, which created 59589 in the US alone.
What Yeezy shoes were released in 2021?
There were a number of new Yeezy shoes released in 2021, however, the big drops were the adidas YEEZY NSLTD BT Khaki, adidas KNIT RUNNER BOOT Sulfur, adidas YEEZY 500 Utility Black, adidas YEEZY BOOST 350 V2 Blue Tint.