Call us over-zealous for making a list of the year’s best sneakers in April, but hey, what can we say? 2022’s been stuffed to the gills with heater drops, from the bastions of hype (see: Nike and Yeezy) to the surprising sleeper hits (New Balance) to the totally unexpected (Allbirds). Even better, the inundation of needless collaborations and boring colorway after colorway is finally starting to drop off, perhaps due to some of the post-sneaker world debate validity. It feels like every big release of 2022 has been a banger — probably because sneaker companies know they can no longer afford to mess around.
The best sneakers of 2022 come from every part of the style continuum, from mass-produced general releases to ultra-exclusive drops that leave scant-few pairs up for grabs. You’ve got your design-heavy and designer-heavy (an important distinction here; we’re talking a Eames collaboration versus on from Spanish luxury label Loewe), your old favorites in breathtaking colorways, even new classics ready to be eternalized. Whether you’re an OG ‘head or a newbie to the sneaks scene, we’re sure you can appreciate the crisp, new-leather-smell dopamine hit each of these pairs of coveted kicks provide.
It’s critical to remember that these aren’t just your standard white kicks. Some sneakers on this list have broken barriers. Some nod to decades of history or serve to memorialize designers. Some just look too damn cool not to mention. The through-line? They’re all proof that the sneaker industry — which has cooled off in recent years after a Big Bang-esque boom in the 2010s — is still alive and kicking.
So sit back, relax and appreciate the best sneakers 2022 has to offer… so far.
Nike NOCTA Hot Step Air Terra
When CLB’s (that’s Certified Lover Boy — what, do you live under a rock?) long-awaited Nike collaboration dropped on March 3, we weren’t sure exactly how to feel — after all, for a multi-year hyped affair, the Hot Step Air Terra’s are shockingly subdued. But, just like with much of the Toronto-based OVO man’s discography, the bulbous sneaker wormed it’s way into our brains and now we can’t stop thinking about them. Inspired by ’90s and ’00 basketball style and utilizing the sole unit from Nike’s 1999’s Air Terra Humara, the Hot Step Air Terra combines new and old into a crisp white package.
YEEZY Foam Runner “Stone Sage”
Tired? The Yeezy Boost 350. Wired? The new Foam Runner from Ye’s best-selling label, which has released in a bevy of colors like “Mist” and “Stone Sage” since the beginning of 2022, along with various restocks from older drops. Part clog, part sneaker, and ultra-wearable, the Yeezy vehicle is more comfortable than you’d think, a contributing factor to why the style is perennially sold out.
Vans x Notre OG Style 36 LX
Vans x Notre is a match made in heaven; both the California-based skate shoe company and the Chicago retailer exude laid-back cool in spades, which is probably why the OG Style 36 LX feels even more charming than its general release brother. Finished in four crisp colorways and sporting a handshake graphic in place of the traditional Vans stripe, these kicks are the ultimate summer chiller.
ON x Loewe Cloudventure “Space Blue”
On x Loewe’s February collaboration shattered the running gear glass ceiling with a collision of form and function rarely seen in the sneaker world. We’ve already extensively covered the drop, but we’ll touch on the highlight real again: premium nylon, On Cloudtec and an out-of-this-world pattern.
Converse x Golf Wang Chuck 70 Ox “Python Pink”
Golf Wang x Converse is the gift that keeps on giving. Year after year, we’ve gotten fun, funky kicks, courtesy of one Tyler, The Creator. The most recent drop, a slippery, “Python Pink” Chuck 70 Ox, is further confirmation not only of Golf’s prowess but that this really will be the hot boy summer we were hoping for; these slithery joints, a vintage tee and some 5″ shorts will make sure of that.
New Balance x District Vision FuelCell RC Elite v2
This one is for the runners. The gurus at District Vision put the totality of their crunchy, performance-driven minds and souls into recreating the marathoner-endorsed FuelCell RC Elites, and the result is a murdered-out heater as good for flexing at the function as for putting in the miles. Millimeters on millimeters of cushy stack height and New Balances patented carbon-fiber plate means each step is as springy as the last.
Adidas x Allbirds 2.94 KG CO2e
We will be the first to admit that the universally clowned Allbirds is the last sneaker brand we thought would end up on this list. But much like other recent endeavors by the eco-conscious startup, the Adidas x Allbirds 2.94 KG CO2e is shockingly solid. Named after the minimal carbon emissions each pair is made with (the collaboration marks the first time Adidas has produced footwear under 3.0 KG of waste), the shoes feature at least 25 percent recycled materials, a bio-based midsole and ultralight textile upper, all which play nicely with the design-forward sensibilities of Adidas.
Nike Jordan Five “Jade Horizon”
A sneakerfreak’s dream come true, The Nike Jordan Five “Jade Horizon” dresses up the fan-favorite silo in a deep, rich green that looks drop-dead gorgeous, regardless of whether they’re on your feet or in the display case.
Eames x Reebok Club C “Dot Pattern”
Care about design? Too broke to afford a vintage collectors chair? The Eames x Reebok meets in the middle of that Venn diagram, with a “Dot Pattern” homage to the 1956 armchair slathered on IH-favorite Club C’s leather silo.
Hoka Mafate Speed 2
The Mafate Speed 2 is not a collaboration, nor is it a special edition release by Hoka One One. No, the shoe is a good ol’ general release gem, available to grab at your leisure. So why then, does it crack this elite list of coveted sneakers? Because, for our money, it’s the best-looking shoe of the year.
New Balance 550 “Conversations Amongst Us”
The 550 silo has enjoyed immense success since New Balance and streetwear darlings Aime Leon Dore brought the style back into the fold, and the “Conversations Amongst Us” release, in collaboration with revered legend Joe Freshgoods, highlighted exactly why. An eggshell colorway, in conjunction with a broader social message about the cultural conversations we should be having, is exactly the kind of innovation we want to see from the biggest sneaker of 2021.
Nike x OFF WHITE Blazer Low
No list would be complete without a Virgil Abloh sneaker. The designer, who tragically passed away last year, singlehandedly re-shaped the sneaker universe with his work at both OFF WHITE and Louis Vuitton. It’s fitting that one of his final posthumous kicks, the Nike x OFF WHITE Blazer Low, is also one of his best.
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