Who would’ve predicted that when Nike released the Air Jordan I in ‘85, that they were starting a revolution. Basketball culture hasn’t been the same since that year, it’s been better. Many basketball fans have found a lifestyle by hoarding the freshest kicks any and all brands have to offer. For some, living without there kicks is an impossibility. You may call them addicts -and you’d be somewhat correct in doing so- but widely used term is sneakerhead.
As a sneakerhead, almost everything in your life revolves around your kicks. That means wanting every shoe to be pristine, every outfit to be fresh and every head to be turned. It also means that no matter how many pairs of shoes you own, it’s never truly enough. The best part about being a sneakerhead: it’s not some sort of exclusive group of people who discriminate against anyone else who decides to start building up their own personal collection.
Sneakerheads love it when they can talk to others about their collections, as well as learning about others’. I should know, I am one. Like so many others, I remember being so infatuated with a pair of basketball shoes. My fandom started when I was about thirteen years old with the adiZero Rose 2, and I know that there are other sneakerheads who are just getting started on their collections at the same age I was. In some cases, they’re even younger.
I also know that, much like myself, not many kids can get their start collections due to financial restrictions. I grew up in a single household, and the money wasn’t all there most of the time, but that’s okay. I worked my but off to buy them -by shoveling snow in the winter- and when I got old enough and wanted more shoes, I got a job at Kids FootLocker. That’s why I’m making this list. Rather, it’s who I’m making this list for. It’s for others who are just about to begin a collection of their own, but can only manage to afford one pair. So, I’ve ranked the top shoes that were released this year on a basis of price, performance and overall freshness. So without further ado, here’s this year’s rankings:
Actually, quick note before we start: all of the shoes ranked are from my experiences with most of the shoes, as I do in fact own fourteen of the nineteen listed. I realize that the way that these shoes fit on me, is not necessarily the same for everyone else. If you have different views on these shoes, let me know on twitter. I’m @ponaxWardell.
The, “Nah, I think I’m gonna take a hard pass”:
Unlisted.) Jordan XXX- Current Retail Price: $159.99
Look, every sneakerhead owns and loves at least one pair of J’s. But Jordan brand took a huge, and I mean HUGE, step backward when they dropped the Jordan XXX. The traction was inconsistent, the upper wasn’t breathable and the upper also took way too long to break in. Overall, the shoe was just wrong. It didn’t help that it isn’t exactly the nicest shoes to look at either. Thankfully, Jordan more than made up for their mistakes with the Jordan XXXI, but we’ll get to those a little bit later.
Unlisted.) Crazylight Boost 2.5- Current Retail Price: $109.99
I get the feeling that the Crazylight Boost 2.5 was adidas’ only misstep this year, which was easily adidas’ best from the past decade. Even still, it was a pretty unfortunate misstep. It was meant to be a slight improvement of the Crazylight Boost 2015, but adidas really overlooked all of the original’s faults and regressed its strengths. They used the exact same outsole -which wasn’t very good- and they changed the incredibly comfortable upper. Plus, they didn’t give us more Boost… and BOOST IS LIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!!!!
The, “Man, these were lil overhyped but… dey aiiiight”:
17.) Melo M12- Current retail price: $124.99
If the Melo M12s had been priced at $124.99 when it had been released in January, then it probably wouldn’t be ranked so low. However the original price was $160, so its place is fairly justified. Let’s first talk about the look: honestly, most of its colorways are pretty clean. It also has a really dope heel, and the placement of the Jumpman logo is perfect for its silhouette. However, the M12 does fall short as a performance shoe. There are some serious containment issues in the forefoot, and the cushion took a serious regression from its predecessor, the Melo M11. Hopefully, these problems (along with the traction) will be addressed, and improved in the Melo M13.
16.) Curry 3- Current retail price: $139.99
Under Amour had such a great formula for selling Curry’s signature shoes. They marketed toward a younger audience, designed solid shoes and got to sit back and relax while letting Steph Curry do his thing. Then the Curry 3 happened. In no way was it Steph Curry’s fault, nor was it necessarily UA’s marketing. The shoe is just so incredibly boring. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great pair of shoes as far as performing is concerned, but just… no.
15.) LeBron Soldier 10- Current retail price: $140
Man, it’s been a great year for LeBron. He’s grown his brand into a new stratosphere, he’s cracked the top-ten all-time scoring list and he actually won one for the ‘Land. He’s done all that, yet he hasn’t managed to increase the popularity of his shoes because well, they aren’t very good. The Soldier 10s were easily the best he had to offer this year, but even they were sub-par. The traction was pretty poor, and to say that the cushioning was uncomfortable would be an understatement. However the shoe does look pretty dope and the three-strap, no laces look is really intriguing.
The, “No seriously, who made these?”:
14.) W.O.W. 5- Current retail price: $160
It’s so rare to see a brand improve everything on a new pair of kicks, that we disliked in its previous iteration. That’s why we should all be thankful to Li-Ning, because at least we know they’re listening. For the Way of Wade 5, the traction was greatly improved from the W.O.W. 4. As was the fit, support and the overall look of the shoe. However, it did take a significant step back with its cushioning system. It’s way too firm, and it’s definitely not made with a comfort first mentality. Still, shout out to D Wade, because there’s never been a cheesier name for a shoe than W.O.W. It’s a good cheesy though.
13.) Anta KT2- Current retail price: $120
Anta deserves a lot of credit for making the KT2 look so much cooler than its predecessor, the KT 1. Both the heel cup and the logo placement are phenomenal, which complement what is also a better all-around performance shoe. It has a perfect balance between its court feel and softness in its cushion, plus the traction pattern is unexpectedly effective. So as far as Chinese brands are concerned, Anta is at the forefront; and Anta’s KT2 is by far their best model.
12.) RARE METAL Thunder- Current retail price: $111
Every bone in my body is telling me to rank this shoe so much higher than the 12th overall spot it currently holds. Seriously, this is arguably one of the best shoes, made by a non-major brand, of all time. It features a great traction pattern, a solid cushioning system, a comfortable fit, an excellent support system and the Jacquard upper looks incredibly cool. There’s almost nothing wrong with shoe! Unfortunately, brand name does mean a lot for popularity, and this isn’t a part of Brandblack’s J Crossover line, so this shoe has been greatly overlooked. But if they can continue making kicks as good as the RARE METAL Thunder, then people are sure to know the name Brandblack. So you may as well get in on the ground floor while you can.
The, “Almost the best of the year, but not quite there”:
11.) Crazylight Boost 2016- Current retail price: $120
Yes!!! Finally!!! For the first time in a long time, adidas gave us exactly what we’ve been telling them to. They gave us full-length Boost!! Goodness, I can’t say enough how comfortable these shoes feel, and they’re not even the most comfortable shoes by the Three Stripes this year by a long-shot (how ridiculous is that??). It also has a beastly traction pattern -composed of Continental rubber- and there’s also a cage on the lateral forefoot, in order to ensure security. The only problem is that the Jacquard they used on the upper isn’t really that breathable, which is really unfortunate considering the PrimeKnit versions are incredibly difficult to find.
10.) Hyperdunk 2016 Flyknit- Current retail price: $200
The Nike Hyperdunk used to have a really unfair stereotype. For the past few years, it’s been viewed as the generic pair of sneakers made by Nike, that had just enough technology in it to be considered useful. Let me tell you something, Nike absolutely broke that stigma. They totally revamped the silhouette of the Hyperdunk, and it only minimally resembles any of its predecessors. It looks way cooler! They’ve added Flyknit to the entire upper and a near full-length Zoom Air Bag, both of which are insanely comfortably. Again let me stress, they are insanely comfortably. There are, however, faults with this shoe; namely, the sub-par traction and the $200 price tag.
P.S. there are better Nike shoes released this year, that are way cheaper, so… yeah.
9.) Lillard 2- Current retail price: $105
The fact that a $105 shoe made it this high on the rankings is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s just how good Damian Lillard’s second signature shoe is. It’s an absolutely beautiful shoe that features a surprisingly breathable Jacquard upper, an inner one-piece bootie and a Continental rubber outsole. Even though the traction pattern has a slight problem with dust, it’s still incredibly cool looking and it’s inspired by Lillard’s personal tattoos. The Lillard 2 easily has the most value per dollar out of any shoe this year, and it’s definitely a must cop. The only problem is that it doesn’t feature any Boost… but Bounce is cool too, I guess. :’(
8.) Kobe XI Elite- Current retail price: $200
A fully composed Flyknit upper, a drop-in lunarlon midsole, a zoom air unit in the heel and it’s a pair of Kobe’s… but I had the nerve to rank it at 8? Really?? Have I lost my mind?!?!? No me, I haven’t lost our mind. The reason I put the Kobe XIs this low is because it’s basically just an indoor soccer shoe. It also has a near-flat outsole, and its silhouette is almost identical to some of Nike’s indoor soccer shoes. Oh, now I see me, but how does it preform? That’s a good question me. I think that overall, it’s a very solid shoe. But it’s also made very specifically for guards, so it’s not necessarily for everyone. Oh, now I understand, me… why’s everyone staring at us? I don’t know.
7.) Harden Vol. 1- Current retail price: $140
Let me start by saying that I honestly have no idea what the meaning was behind Adidas’ teasers of the Harden Vol. 1, but I have to admit it was incredibly intriguing. They made as much noise as possible to hype their newest signature line, and their campaign was admittedly effective. The shoe is actually quite beautiful too, with a genuine leather toe and full-length Boost cushioning, but it’s nowhere near perfect. The difference between the regular Harden Vol. 1 and the Primeknit versions is minimal to nonexistent, which is disappointing to say the least. They also have a fit that is specifically modeled for James Harden’s feet, so it’s literally not made for everyone. I absolutely recommend copping a pair, but you’ll need to try them on in-store first.
6.) Curry 2.5- Current retail price: $99.99
Man, UA is really hoping that the Curry 2.5 isn’t going to be remembered as their apex performance of basketball shoes. Although even if it is, it’s still a pretty good apex. It has the same traction strength as the Curry 2s, and the cushioning is composed of the very responsive, Charged foam. The upper is way more durable than its predecessor, and it fits a little better too. The only knack is that it takes a bit longer to break-in than most other shoes, but it’s okay because they are incredibly effective. If you’re looking for a bargain, then you should definitely cop these. Especially because they’re on sale right now.
The, “What more could you really ask for?”:
5.) Kyrie 2- Current retail price: $119.99
Hey, I know what you’re going to say: “I thought you were only reviewing shoes released this year? But the Kyrie 2 was released last December!!” You know what, the Kyrie 2 was released last December, but I do what I want!! The Kyrie 2 deserves this! Now that my outburst is over, let’s go over just how good this shoe is. The fit is incredible, the support is unexpectedly sound and the traction… oh man, that traction. The traction, is out of this world. Honestly, it doesn’t matter where you play -whether it be indoor courts, blacktops, dirt or even carpet- this bad boy will keep you gripped to the floor flawlessly. The only problem is that the Zoom cushioning is limited to the heel, so it’s not really the most comfortable Nike shoe on the market.
4.) D Rose 7 Primeknit- Current retail price: $160
Adidas finally gave D Rose a legitimately cool pair of kicks again. I know that the D Rose 6 was really good, but the D Rose 7 is easily Rose’s best performance shoe of his signature sneaker line, to date. It probably had the second best traction of the year (see #5) and the fit of the shoe is probably Rose’s best since the adiZero Rose 2.5. But the best part, by far was…. full length Boost!!!!! It’s not the full length Boost everyone was expecting -it offers more of a court feel, than plushness- but it’s still ridiculously responsive. If you’re interested in copping these I’d definitely recommend looking for a Primeknit version, because the engineered mesh used on most pairs aren’t very comfortable.
3.) Jordan XXXI- Current retail price: $185
Thank goodness!! Ladies and gentlemen, Jordan is back!! After so many missteps, so many misses, they once again reminded us who they truly are. Trust me, they did so emphatically. The Jordan XXXI is a beautiful blend of the designs of the past and the technologies of the future. It features a full-length Zoom airbed as well a knit composed forefoot upper, which when combined, make up for an incredibly comfortable shoe. However, I will say that even though the traction has improved from the Jordan XXX, it’s still pretty unreliable. Regardless of that thought -and the fact that it’s basically just an updated Jordan I- the Jordan XXXI is a really dope shoe. You should absolutely cop these if you can.
The, “*insert goat emoji here*”:
2.) KD 9- Current retail price: $150
First things first, how unbelievably ineffective does the traction on this shoe look? Seriously, could it be more flat? That’s exactly what I thought until I tried these on, and let me tell you, the rubber Nike used is incredibly strong. Every turn was sharp, and it never seemed to lose it’s hold on the court. But what really made the shoe was its full-length Max Zoom. Goodness gracious, the Zoom is amazing!! It’s so comfortable, yet still responsive and it is easily one of Nike’s greatest implementations of this technology. But wait, there’s more!! This shoe was launched into the next stratosphere by Nike’s choice to use a nylon-backed Flyknit on the upper. All in all, this may be one of Nike’s greatest performance shoes of all time, making this a must-cop. Just be sure to try them on in store, because the fit isn’t for everyone.
1.) Crazy Explosive Primeknit- Current retail price: $150
BOOOOSSST IS LIIIIIIIIIFE!!!! Sorry, let me say that again so everyone in the back can here. BOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSST IIIISS LLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFFFEEE!!!! In all seriousness though, I was absolutely speechless when I first played in these. Honestly, this is probably the comfortable basketball shoe of all time, no joke. Adidas used both Primeknit and Boost technologies like never before, and they basically made a basketball version of the Ultraboost (which is a very, very good thing). The traction is great, the fit is perfect, the support is surprisingly sound… the Crazy Explosive Primeknit has literally no performance flaws. Even though it’s not the most attractive shoe on the market, it’s still the best basketball shoe in the world. Jon Wall must be regretting his decision to leave Adidas, because these were reportedly supposed to be the J Wall 3.