The 15 Best Sneakers of 2022

From Adidas and Asics to Nike and New Balance, these are the cream of the crop.

If you've noticed that the feverishness and fervency surrounding the sneaker world have tempered recently, know that you're not alone. We here at the Esquire Sneaker Desk have noticed it, too. You might assume that we consider this to be bad news. Quite the contrary. Now that things are slowing down a bit—or at least feel like they are—we're happy to report that our outlook is downright optimistic.

Granted time to consider each release more fully and explore offerings from brands that have traditionally flown under the sneakerhead radar, we've gained a whole new appreciation for the marketplace in general. Things are shaking up. Horizons are broadening. And though SneakerMania isn't quite so manic anymore, there's still so much to enjoy. Which brings us to the best sneaker releases of 2022. These are the true standouts. The genuine articles. And they're not just a bunch of different riffs on expected icons, either—though you will see more than a few classic silhouettes below. Oh, also, this year we trimmed the list down to just 15 entries. Stiff competition, folks.

Did your favorite pairs make the cut? Only one way to find out.


It should come as no surprise seeing this on the list. One of the last designs from the mind of Virgil Abloh, 200 pairs of this extra-luxurious take on the Air Force 1 were auctioned off by Sotheby's at the beginning of the year. Featuring Louis Vuitton's Monogram and Damier patterns alongside Abloh's signature design elements, it's an instant icon. And to make it even better, a percentage of the proceeds from the auction were donated to The Virgil Abloh "Post-Modern" Scholarship Fund, which supports the education of students of Black, African American, or African descent.

The folks at Chicago's Notre know the deal: When it comes to collaborating with Vans, less is often more. Instead of going wild with color and pattern, the Notre team opted for a subtle, two-tone "Matcha" colorway complemented by a tweaked take on the Jazz Stripe. It just plain works.

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Union's riff on the previously under-appreciated Air Jordan 2 didn't get as much love as prior collaborative outings with the Jumpman, but it's a winner in our book. And hey, who know—maybe it'll gain a cult following over the years as converts realize the error of their ways, just like what happened with the OG version of the sneaker.

It's been a big year for Asics. Sneakerheads and fashion fans alike have realized that the brand—once considered something of an also-ran when it came to lifestyle shoes—actually has a lot to offer. Case in point: the perfectly chunky Gel-MC Plus. Boston-based Bodega has a penchant for getting real (real) loud with the colorways on its collabs, so consider this one a study in understatement—at least by comparison.


How do you make the already-great Gazelle even better? Craft it in Italy according to Gucci's exacting standards, toss the double-G motif on the upper, and throw on a translucent gum sole while you're at it. (And if you're more of a minimalist, don't worry—Gucci has a whole slew of options for you to explore.)

The Samba has been crushing it for pretty much all of 2022. In typical fashion, designer Grace Wales Bonner makes it even better, bringing flourishes like topstitch detailing, two-tone laces, and hairy suede accents to a chilled-out colorway that pairs cream and green.

Chalk it up to Y2K nostalgia if you like, but shiny, silvery, techy runners are having a banner year a couple of decades after their original heyday. Thisisneverthat took a swing at the trend and absolutely nailed it with this version of the New Balance 1906R. Pre-distressing sneakers is tricky and often isn't a successful approach, but here, it was absolutely the right call.

We have to admit: When we heard that Tom Sachs and Nike were releasing a new, lower-priced collab designed to reach a much broader audience than the infamous Mars Yard, we were skeptical. Surely Sachs's cachet would mean they were still impossible to get, right? Wrong. Hell, they even sold the winkingly named "GPS" at Kohl's. For delivering on the promise of putting shoes on feet, as much as for its aesthetic bona fides, the General Purpose Shoe deserves major kudos.


Can you really call it a "best of the year" list without a Jordan 3? We think not.

Remember that Asics heater we were talking about earlier? It continued in October with the release of an extremely clean Gel-Nimbus 9 from Jess Gonsalves, co-founder of New York vintage shop Procell. Rendered in shades of white and cream, this take on the beefy runner is everything it should be—and nothing more.

The return of the AJ1 in the iconic "Chicago" colorway is always welcome. This time around, the Jumpman team decided to switch things up just a bit, adding yellowed accents and cracked leather to mimic the look of an aged sneaker. It hits a little different than the pure Chicago does, but we're still happy to have it around.


JJJJound was founded in Montreal, so it only makes sense that Justin Saunders and co. would return to the city as a source of inspiration. With these 990v3s, it's all about the city's monochrome aesthetic, with layered browns letting the rest of the wearer's outfit—and the construction of the made-in-the-USA sneakers—shine. They were initially limited to Montreal customers only, but thanks to the wonders of the secondary market, you can now score a pair from anywhere in the world—if you can afford it.

A Jordan 11 retro release has become something of a holiday tradition at this point. This year, the sneaker arrived in a bright "Cherry" colorway that puts all the focus on that shining, shimmering patent leather. Some folks will think "Chicago" when they see it. Us? We can't help thinking Santa would approve.

Yeah, we know this is a lot of shoe to look at. Too much for some, in fact. But even if only for those trompe l'oiel cutout panels, we've got to give Sandy Bodecker and the Nike SB crew credit. Plus, y'know, it's a vibe.

More bright Dunks to round out the year? Why not! Boston's own Concepts teamed up with Nike SB to create an ode to—what else?—the lobster. For the sixth installment of the ongoing lobster saga, the duo landed on an eye-catching orange upper that's textured to mimic the shell of everyone's favorite giant water bug. The finishing touch? A rubber band on the toe.


From: Esquire U.S. 

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Jonathan Evans
Jonathan Evans is the style director of Esquire, covering all things fashion, grooming, accessories, and, of course, sneakers. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. You can follow him at @MrJonathanEvans on Twitter and Instagram.
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