Despite what many “shoelebrities” and influencers will tell you, sneaker collabs are still the lifeblood of the footwear industry. No matter how many partnerships may seem to flood our Instagram feeds, the reality is, collaborations allow new creative minds an opportunity to thrive and brands to take a step outside of their comfort zone. Both of those things are incredibly important to the overall growth of the sneaker game.
This list isn’t about what shoes sold out the fastest, or what pairs have the highest resale value. There will be no shortage of those lists for you to read in the coming weeks. These collaborations stood out for reasons you might not think about. That’s not to say those tried and true partnerships aren’t equally as important, but collaborations from Sacai, Kith, A Ma Maniére, Union LA, JJJound, Stussy, Supreme, and Travis Scott get plenty of love, and you don’t need me to tell you how good they are what they do.
These are the 9 best sneaker collaborations of 2022.
One of the most impressive things about Salehe Bembury’s collaborations with Crocs is that the silhouette is so uniquely tied to him through the inspiration of the injection molded foam pattern. His fingerprint might not be physically included on his other collabs but the same outside-the-box thinking is glaringly obvious in anything he works on.
Chicago native Joe Freshgoods has been grinding in the game for years and over the last year or two, his efforts have been rewarded. The most impressive thing about Joe Freshgoods’ collaborations is the community-rooted storytelling that helps elevate important things that bigger footwear brands simply overlook.
Rick and Morty x Puma MB.01
With the crazy bright and mismatched colors, the Rick and Morty collaboration with Puma on LaMelo Ball’s signature shoe is not for everyone. However, think about the last time you even thought about a basketball shoe from a brand other than Nike or Jordan as a “best of” sneaker. Puma and LaMelo have something special happening right now and it seems as if this is just the beginning.
Tom Sachs x Nike
The General Purpose Shoe, aka GPS, from Tom Sachs and Nike, is not in any way a game-changing design or some technological advancement, and that’s exactly what makes the collaboration special. It’s simple. It’s produced in large quantities in the hopes that “normal” consumers will have a chance to get a pair. Not to mention, it’s the first collaboration that Nike has ever released with distribution through Kohl’s. Move over Air Monarch, there’s a new “world’s most boring” shoe in town.
Gucci x adidas
5 years ago, if you would have told any sneakerhead, or fan of Gucci or adidas, that the brands would be releasing an official collaboration in the future, they would have laughed at you. Now in 2022, the brands have dropped a successful collection of apparel and sneakers. These aren’t for everyone but the fact that it happened means that both brands had to think completely outside of their standard operating procedures and that they both deserve a tip of the cap for making it happen.
Albino & Preto x Saucony
You might not have heard of the brand Albino & Preto unless you are into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but as they grow, they’ve been bringing the passion for the sport into a new light. It’s rare that a footwear brand, in this case, Saucony, would take a chance collaborating with such a niche sport, but it speaks to the passion of A&P Founder and Chief of Fun, Arvie Gimeno.
Bad Bunny x adidas
When you think of adidas collaborations, oftentimes they are very shortlived. Although he is one of the most popular musicians in the world, many in the sneaker game thought the first Bad Bunny collaboration would lead to a similar fate. However, the partnership between Bad Bunny and adidas has blossomed into a handful of Throne-Worthy releases that deserve much more credit than the mainstream sneaker blogs seem to give.
Stray Rats x New Balance
While the colorways might not be for everyone, the Stray Rats x New Balance 580 release is a testament to the brand’s deep connections to sneaker culture. Stray Rats might be a new name to many, but Miami native Julian Consuegra has been hard at work building the brand for over a decade and this year through collaborations, Stray Rats leveled up once again.
Louis Vuitton x Off-White x Nike Air Force 1 by Virgil Abloh
Obviously, the Louis Vuitton Air Force 1 isn’t for everyone, both aesthetically and in terms of pricing, but the fact that this even happened is such a testament to Virgil Abloh’s passion and contagiousness as a human being. Rest in peace.