Throughout the calendar year, thousands of new sneaker releases are produced by the world’s most recognizable brands, and despite the overwhelming odds, a select few somehow manage to establish themselves as standouts within the crowded landscape. Some shoes even go on to achieve legendary status, living on as prized conquests for some and vigorously coveted “grails” for those who missed out on a pair. This particular year’s onslaught of re-released classic models, radical new designs, creative collaborative projects and basic essentials has rendered 2011 as one of the greatest years in sneaker history, rivaling some of the most heralded volumes in the annals of footwear. While the word “reflection” becomes a trending topic towards the end of December, the Sneaker News staff typically spends 365 days out of the year previewing, introducing, and detailing the very best that the sneaker industry has to offer, so as you can imagine, boiling it all down to thirty standouts is no easy task.
Each potential candidate for this exclusive club is judged by rigid criteria, and while the following pages have been arranged in an immaculate spread, the selection process wasn’t exactly the neatest process. There were incontrovertible successes, unfortunate misses and the occasional blindside hit, but 2011 was so rock-solid from beginning to end, that even the worthy crop of honorable mentions would make sparks fly. In most cases, the final word on the true merit of a sneaker release was determined by you, the readers, evidenced by your reactions and feedback and eventually quantified by how quickly you collectively picked them clean from store shelves. After all was considered, the best of the best were carefully whittled down into what we feel to be the thirty most significant sneaker releases of the year.
The Sneaker News Top 30 Sneakers of 2011 features quite a mixed bag of styles and genres with representation from seven different brands; Nike, Jordan Brand, Converse, adidas, New Balance, Asics and Reebok all played roles in making 2011 one of the most memorable years in recent memory. We saw innovative new designs anchored by progressive technology, like the trio of Nike Basketball Signature models and adidas’ introduction of the lightest basketball shoe ever, as well as the long-awaited returns of some trendsetting and generation-defining footwear models that would have undoubtedly made it onto any ‘best-of’ lists during their respective debut years. Some of the selections could be described as ‘clean, simple, and understated’, while others stretched the boundaries of conventional sneaker design – we’re talking infusion of blinking LED lights, stuffed animals, and glow-in-the-dark materials just to run off a few.
What makes this year’s Top 30 group so exceptional is that floating above and around each sneaker is a unique script with a fascinating plot – you couldn’t make some of this stuff up. Just to give you a small taste: One shoe was originally destined to be scrapped, but led to campouts at factory outlet stores of all places, while another was intended to be a celebratory gesture for one of the greatest American athletes of our generation, only to be sent packing to overseas retailers with a small, last-minute comeback going down in Miami. Air Jordan Retros displayed their unflappable strength once again, with the year-end Air Jordan XI causing unbridled release mayhem across the nation. And of course, there was the surprise release of a certain shoe from the future, surfacing by way of the most impressive sneaker launch ever. Thanks to these captivating stories and all those that fell in between, the thirty inclusions on this list will have reshaped the future terrain of sneakers with their gripping tales and alluring designs, trends and innovations. Buckle up and prepare yourself for the sneaker game’s premiere year-end review – the Sneaker News Top 30 Sneakers of 2011.