Seventeen For ’17: The 17 Best Sneakers Of The Year

2017 was a truly wild year in sneakers. Full of trends both new and old, endless collaborations (more than three-quarters of the shoes on this list are collaborative pairs), and all-consuming hype the likes of which has not been seen before, sneaker culture shifted massively these past twelve months. And it’s likely it will never be the same again.

Nike came roaring back to the forefront of cool with extensive collaborations and limited releases after losing siginificant ground to Adidas the past two years. 90’s trends came full-circle, as both chunky old-school sneakers and classic Air Max silhouettes enjoyed a revival, while the athleasure set took to new, sleek designs that were futuristic in their concepts and space-like in their feel.

Chopping the vast portion of excellent releases down to only 17 was an arduous, but enjoyable task. After careful deliberation, heated arguments, and TONS of re-organizing, the list is complete. Without further ado, we present KicksOneTwo’s top 17 sneakers of 2017.

17. Stussy x New Balance 990

Sometimes less is more, and clean garners more attention than flashy. The Stussy x New Balance 990, the very first shoe on our list, encapsulates this ethos perfectly. The combination of New Balance’s premium made-in-the-USA quality and Stussy’s unique visual touch on a classic silhouette makes for one of the most unsung, underrated, under-appreciated releases of 2017. In a day and age where many collaborations are so garish you can hardly stand to look at them, these shoes are a welcome respite from the sneaker game’s collaborative excess.

16. Kith x Nike Air Pippen 1 Chimera 

Ronnie Fieg is the king of collaborations. He’ll try his hand at any and every silhouette from any and every sneaker brand, so when it was announced that he was getting a crack at the legendary Air Pippen 1, OG (and new) Nike Basketball heads around the world were overjoyed … and Ronnie didn’t disappoint. Mashing together multiple animal prints on the “Chimera” Pippen 1’s, he managed to make a wild and crazy sneaker that’s still inherently wearable. Newsflash: that’s not easy to do.

15. Nike Zoom Fly SP “Oreo”

Believe it or not, the Zoom Fly used to be a low-level Nike Running model, the denizen of excessively sweaty joggers and cargo short-wearing, lawn-mowing suburban dads everywhere. Thankfully, Nike took that extremely uncool script and flipped it completely on its head when the Zoom Fly was revamped, revitalized, and relaunched as a premium running/lifestyle sneaker in 2017. It became a favorite shoe of athleasure-loving sneakerheads around the world and was made available in a variety of clean, toned-up and toned-down colors, of which the “Oreo” colorway was the certainly the best (if not the most hyped).

14. Kith x Nonnative Adidas Ultra Boost

Kith scores another spot on the list, with yet another collaborative banger courtesy of Ronnie Fieg and Nonnative. Kith originally debuted the Ultra Boost Mid in December 2016 with a highly sought-after “Multicolor” pair that released as part of their “Aspen” collection and returned with the assistance of Japanese brand Nonnative for a black patchwork pair in 2017. Featuring 3M detailing, a heavier Primeknit upper than previous UB Mid models, and an ATR rubber outsole, this is hands (and feet) down the most unique pair of colder-weather shoes you’ll see this year.

13. Undefeated x Nike Air Max 97

The first of many Air Max 97s you’ll see on this list, the collaborative Undefeated edition was a fusion of two of the hottest things in sneakers this year: Air Max and high-fashion kicks (the two stripes on the upper pay homage to Gucci & their classic color combination). The patent leather and wrap-around branding give the sneaker a premium feel, and the classic yet inherently futuristic Air Max design ensures that it’ll never go out of style.

12. Skepta x Nike Air Max 97 Ultra

Skepta’s Air Max 97 Ultra was one of the more unique Air Max releases of the past twelve months. A grime music pioneer, responsible for spreading the gospel of “roadman” style (matching tracksuits and crispy Air Max sneakers) worldwide, Skepta’s shoe was inspired by the glistening colors of the Moroccan city of Marrakesh and featured clever details like an iridescent upper that transitions from a deep hue of red to gold and purple. The unique pair of kicks also features the lacing system from the Nike Spidiron in place of a classic Air Max design for a little extra flair.

11. Virgil Abloh x Nike Blazer

You knew you couldn’t get too far into this list without seeing a pair from Virgil Abloh and Nike’s “The Ten” collection, right? The Blazer is one of the most underrated silhouettes included in the expansive collaborative release: many KicksOneTwo homies would say that this is their favorite pair from the collection. This slightly modernized silhouette featured an extremely clean colorway and a design that wasn’t too far off from the original, save for the branding on the instep; the giant, eye-catching Swoosh that falls over the midsole; and the red tag that adorns all of Virgil’s collaborative Nike sneakers. A true example of how to update a classic without compromising its identity.

10. YEEZY Wave Runner 700

Some loved them. Some hated them. But in true Kanye West fashion, upon the initial announcement that the Yeezy Wave Runner 700 was available for pre-sale … everyone had an opinion. The chunky, wild-colored, borderline hideous silhouette was a vast departure from Kanye’s previous Adidas collaborations and marked a shift in 2017’s footwear trends. As pre-order pairs began arriving and the shoe’s quality and construction were experienced firsthand by sneakerheads, the Wave Runner was held in a more positive light (for the sake of brutal honesty, we didn’t like them at all until we got a chance to check them out in person). A good shoe is often nothing if not controversial, and no matter what you think of the Wave Runners, they’re certainly that.

9. Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 97/1

If this list was based solely on hype, Sean Wotherspoon’s Air Max 97/1 hybrid would land in the number one spot with a bullet. Easily the most hyped-up shoe of the year, the winning design from March’s Revolutionair contest (hosted by Nike in honor of Air Max Day, March 26th) caused a frenzy upon limited releases at Union in LA and Need Supply in Wotherspoon’s hometown of Richmond, the latter of which was cancelled due to unruly crowds. With a pastel corduroy color palette and interchangeable velcro patches on the tongue, the shoe perfectly represents its designer’s vintage-heavy style and flair.

8. Nike Air Max 97 “Silver Bullet”

Although it originally released in Europe at the tail end of 2016, the “Silver Bullet” Air Max 97 still landed a spot on our list as its stateside release didn’t come until 2017. With hype and anticipation already high for the stateside release due to the shoe’s massive popularity across the pond, the “Silver Bullet” blew off shelves at astounding speeds, and helped set the tone for an Air Max-heavy year. The classic yet futuristic design (the shoe still looks sleek 20 years after its original release) caught on like wildfire again, and thankfully for those who missed out on the original drop, the Silver Bullet restocked late in November.

7. COMME des GARÇONS x Nike Air Vapormax

Back in February when Ultra Boosts still ruled supreme as the premuim, comfortable runner of choice for sneakerheads across the globe, Nike geared up with their own high-end, high-tech runner, unlike anything they’d ever released before: the Vapormax. It seemed to be ridiculous at first that anything would be able to compete with the popular Ultra Boost, but aided by clean colors and limited collaborative releases like the laceless Comme des Garçons jawns pictured above, the Vapormax made huge inroads in the premium running market, and is poised for a huge 2018. We’d also like to mention … we called it, too.

6. Air Jordan I “Royal”

Although you’ve gotta love a fresh new release, there’s nothing quite like a classic done right, and Jordan Brand certainly did right with the 2017 edition of the iconic Royal I’s. In their first appearance since 2013, the Royals featured premium tumbled leather and a softer, more padded heel collar than the previous model, guaranteeing their wearability and esteemed place in sneaker culture for years to come.

5. Supreme x Nike Air More Uptempo

Few brands can boast a collaborative track record quite like Supreme and Nike. Sneakerheads and box-logo loving Supreme fans await each season’s collaborative release with baited breath, as you can never really tell what the two titans of industry may do next … and nobody was disappointed this year when it was revealed that Supreme and Nike’s collaborative offering for S/S ’17 would be the classic Air Uptempo. Replacing the iconic “Air” branding around the shoe with a wrap-around “Supreme” graphic, the “Suptempos”, as they came to be affectionately known have established their place in both Supreme and Nike’s history.

4. Virgil Abloh x Air Jordan I

Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” collection was undoboutedly the most unique set of releases in all of sneakers during 2017. Nike gave him permission to chop up, deconstruct, and remake ten of their most iconic silhouettes, and many (though not us, as there’s one other pair from the collection we ranked above it) feel that the “Chicago”-insipred Jordan I was the best of the bunch. The unstitched top and bottom lace eyelets, dainty pinned Swoosh, and unique construction (Virgil claims to have made the “Revealing” concept and created the shoe in one sitting) gave the impression that the shoe just might fall apart at any given moment. There’s never been a Jordan I quite like it before, and there won’t be any quite like it in the future … even when we see more of Virgil’s collaborative kicks next year.

3. Virgil Abloh x  Nike Presto

The debate about which pair from “The Ten” is the best is hotly contested by many a sneakerhead (and some would say that this year’s top nine sneakers should be made up entirely of the collection, as the Chuck Taylors don’t release until 2018), but for our money the Presto is the very best of the bunch. With an upper that was flipped inside-out, seemingly endless lacing options and the strong branding that the “Ten” collection is known for, the already unique Presto silhouette took on a whole new life. Much like the Jordan I’s, they looked like they could come apart at the seams at any given moment; exactly what Virgil was aiming for with his aforementioned “Revealing” designs which Nike said “were designed to look accessible: hand-cut, open-source and reconstructed”.

2. Tom Sachs x Nike Mars Yard 2.0

Reuniting for the first time since their inital collaboration in 2012, Nike and designer/artist Tom Sachs came together to remake their original “Mars Yard” sneaker, a shoe that takes inspiration from Sachs’s NASA-inspired bricolage work. Where their first shoe featured Vectran material (a fabric that was used by NASA on the Mars Rover but couldn’t really hold together on the toe box of a pair of kicks), the 2017 re-hash used a tricot mesh that was more practical for everyday use. Small, understated tweaks were also made to the sole and heel tab, and the shoe was originally released at a “Space Camp,” a test of physical fitness put on by Nike and Sachs, where the prize for completetion was (you guessed it) a pair of these extremely unique kicks. You can feel however you wish about these spaceman shoes, but you can’t deny that they’re one of the most unique pairs of the year, a true example of how ideas, a theory, and art can be made into a pair of kicks.

1. KAWS x Air Jordan IV

We’re finally here at the top. The number one spot. The very best sneaker of the year. Many other great shoes have come before in this list, but there’s no better pair to release in 2017 than the first pair of the KAWS IV’s. It’s been nine years since Brian Donnelly, better known as KAWS worked on shoes with Nike (2008 saw both an Air Force 1 and Air Max 90 collaboration), and the release of his first collaborative sneaker in almost a decade was cause for celebration among both OG sneakerheads/fans of KAWS’s work and the younger generation, giving them a chance to get familiar with KAWS’s tremendous lists of accomplishments. Hype and rich backstory aside, the shoes themselves were beautiful, featuring a rich grey suede upper and midsole and a glow-in-the-dark outsole, all adorned with KAWS’s signature Companion hands and “XX” branding. This is more than just a shoe: it’s a gorgeous, well-crafted homage to the most important artist of our generation’s terrific body of work, and that’s why it takes the number one spot on our list.


What were the best sneakers of 2017 in your opinion? Are there any shoes that aren’t on the list that you feel deserved a spot? Sound off in the comments, or let us know on Twitter!


Editor’s Note: All sneaker images courtesy of Stadium Goods.

Share KicksOneTwo