Remember when people would stare, wide-eyed and judge-y fingered, at you wearing trainers anywhere other than the gym? Well, those days are gone and those people are (probably) dead. Thankfully, trainers now lend a welcome touch of comfort to our everyday attire, and this year saw our undying love for low-tops, split soles and Flyknits only intensify further.
Here are the ones that made us weep:
Most Aesthetically Pleasing
adidas Originals X Spezial Kirkdale SPZL
Sometimes ‘aesthetically pleasing’ doesn’t always mean ‘coolest’ (we’ll get to that later). The adidas Spezial Kirkdale isn’t everyone’s idea of cool: it’s a big, soft, Scouse shoe that puts comfort front and centre and has hiking inflections and weekend dad connotations.
It was also arguably one of the most highly anticipated recent releases among the fervent Spezial fans/die-hard followers of designer Gary Aspden, who are a very particular breed. You’ll find Spezial fans haunting metropolitan hiking shops or behind the goal in the stands at FC United of Manchester in cagoules, sipping pints of local ale. They’re not always cool, but their trainers look ace.
NikeLab Kobe X Elite Low HTM
We don’t usually push basketball trainers but these are way better than the runners up – those abominable/kind of cool Back To The Future Nike Mags – for the simple fact that you could actually step outside wearing them without immediately getting beaten up.
A collaboration stemming from the combined brains and brawn of Fragment designer Hiroshi Fujiwara, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield and Nike CEO Mark Parker (‘HTM’, see? Clever), the Kobe x Elite Low is athleisure taken to its logical conclusion.
It draws influences from Nike Free’s flex grooves and the singular style of Nike Flyknit but also mixes in tens of millions of dollars’ worth of technological research that ensures Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, stays at the top of his game (or at least prolongs his career another year).
They look nice as hell, too, and were snatched up by sneakerheads in minutes when they dropped in April.
adidas Yeezy Boost 350
Could it really have been anything else? Having successfully transferred from affable polo-and-Tims Kanye to Kanye West, bona fide superstar and legitimate designer, with unshakable aplomb, the Chi-Town rapper cornered the trainer game in 2015.
While ‘Ye already dropped a few extremely red Red Octobers for Nike and a couple of luxe moonboots for adidas, the Yeezy 350 was Kanye’s first attempt at making something people could actual wear. If they could get their hands on them, that is. Hypebeasts, resellers and kids with their mum’s credit card burning a hole in their John Elliott’s queued around the corner, camping overnight for a chance to get close to buying a pair.
Yours for about £300 (minimum) on eBay.
Ronnie Fieg x Diadora RF7000 Primo
Founder of the already iconic store/brand Kith NYC, Ronnie Fieg has so many fingers in so many pies that it’s always nice to see him return to the items which really made his name. His sneaker collaborations have been hot properties for a few years now but we don’t think he’ll ever top these, a supremely luxurious version of the V7000 silhouette from resurgent Italian brand Diadora.
Chock full of detail and quality materials – including a pebbled nubuck upper, Tricolore accents, an asymmetrical crimson full-grain leather toe, and two-tone woven laces – it’s very possible that we’re in actual love with these. Shame they’re extremely sold out, eh?
Reebok Classic NPC II
Probably Reebok’s pinnacle, the NPC II is composed of leather so soft it likely calls its mum crying every night, while its impeccable construction is an exercise in minimalism.
At a time when everyone else is doing MORE and LOUDER and BRIGHTER and NEWER, Reebok – surely the most beloved thing to come out of Bolton since Nat Lofthouse – went back to basics and reproduced Oi Polloi co-founder Nigel Lawson’s most beloved trainer.
Turned out for a very limited run of 200 pairs, exclusive to Oi Polloi, and ready to be easily dressed up or down, they really didn’t get the props they deserved.
Most “Well, I Wouldn’t Wear Them But They Are Ace”
Nike Air Tech Challenge II
Sometimes you just have to respect what’s being done with a trainer, enjoy the work that’s been put in and the product that’s come out, even if you’d need to be paid to wear them.
Nike’s design team must’ve been deep into a late 1980s/early 1990s movie fix when they decided to re-release the TC II, a trainer made famous by Andre Agassi (back when he had a perm, probably did mountains of gear and was the best tennis player in the world).
The ‘Hot Lava’ colourway pulls no punches: the whole trainer is about as subtle as a smack in the mouth. But it just… works. No, we don’t know why. And really we should hate it: it’s unwieldy and gaudy and maybe even quite ugly, but its sheer ‘no f*cks given’ attitude and blatant nostalgia have us feeling all warm and fuzzy for a bygone era. Those were the days…
Best Old-School Trainer
adidas Originals Superstar 80s Vintage Deluxe
An undoubted classic, there’s little left to be said about the Superstar. The iconic shelltoe, the perforated Drei Streifen, the solid sole – all of it goes without saying, but adidas’ genius was in releasing the 80s Vintage Deluxe version in January.
Three separate words that spark excitement in many buyers, brought together and combined with the added bonus of one of the decade’s true masterpieces, it set hearts racing. As did its price tag: a cool £145 for these b-boys.
Some gawped, but in the flesh, the quality was unmistakable and the trainer’s off-white boot-leather reconstruction and subtle tongue revamp made it irresistible for connoisseurs. Oh, and it was available in green and red – you don’t see those every day.
The Coolest Trainer Of 2015
Clarks Trigenic Flex 3
And there we have it. Who would’ve thought that Clarks, a trusted old English brand for sensible shoe-loving parents and confused young men who pretend to like The Jam, would be the brains behind officially the coolest trainers of 2015? Not us, that’s for sure.
Bringing Clarks squarely into the present day is Prad Indrakumar, senior designer at Clarks Originals and the daddy of the Trigenic Flex. We can’t thank him enough for his hard work.
With this shoe, the devil is in the details: the split-sole construction makes it extremely versatile and durable; the mint green nubuck leather upper is soft and supple; the lower silhouette lip and exposed stitching hint to the on-trend moccasin influence; while the tan leather heel tag adds a subtle pop of contrast.
Indrakumar, we salute you.
With Spezial promising even more shoes, Nike continuing to collaborate with even hotter, newer designers, and Diadora rising up from the ashes of embarrassing P.E. shoes with the force of a Roman god, 2016 is shaping up to be another trainer year to remember. Better get saving.
Which of this year’s kicks would you crown king?
Cast your vote below.