As we put together preliminary Sneaker Award lists and read through our panelists’ selection, we could say 2016 was a year sneaker brands really began to show a true understanding of the female customer. Some of the progress has to be credited to Puma and Rihanna, who last year led the way by taking a chance on a truly unique design in the form of a creeper that actually felt like it was made by a woman for women. As well, leading brands for several years have made reaching the female customer a commitment and for whatever reason, that focus finally came into full bloom.
Burgundy was a big story this year, as were monochromatic color stories and luxe fabric stories like velvet, fur and pony hair, but the key as always in creating a great sneaker is to tell a story and make a connection with the person buying the product, which all of the shoes on our list do.
We have to extend big thanks to our panel, who include two of the savviest buyers of women’s sneakers in the world, Susan Boyle of Rime in New York and Murata PJs of Sole Finess in Australia, plus a woman who is part and parcel of the culture, Kith production manager, Kirsy Lovett. Repping for the West Coast is Snobette contributor Soleil B and our NYC teen perspective comes from contributor Young Kyla K. Choosing just ten sneakers in such a banner year wasn’t easy, but having the guidance of our panel was key.
Check out the winners of the Snobette Sneaker Awards, starting with No. 10 and working back to the No. 1 shoe.
10. Vans x Opening Ceremony: Old Skool: Multiple Colors: Vans Classics on their own have always been popular with women, but this year the brand entered into a series of collaborations that greatly expanded the California brand’s color acumen. One of the brand’s most popular partnerships was with Opening Ceremony, a collaboration whose monochromatic beige, pink and white color story turned out to be a celebration of the year’s banner colors.
9. Reebok x Naked: Club C: Off White Pony Hair: While Reebok as a lifestyle brand doesn’t garner as much love as its competitors in the United States, globally it’s a favorite among female sneaker lovers. Hat tip to Murata PJs, who reminded us of this fact with a big up of the brand’s collaboration with Naked on a Club C shoe. Reebok and Naked have worked on a lot of shoes together, but for 2016 this one really stood out as special. First, the silhouette was right for the moment, plus the off-white/pony hair combo added a new layer of fresh luxury to this classic shoe, which saw an extremely limited release of just 100 pairs. This is a shoe you look at think, darn, “I really wish I owned a pair of those.” And once again, Naked came with the cool art, juxtaposing a a gorgeous woman of color against the creamy color shoes for the campaign.
8. Nike Air Max Plus TN: Satin Plum Fog: Nike gave a nod to women this year with three different Nike Air Max Plus TN sneakers offered in women’s sizing. It kicked off the summer with the release of two versions offered with a “satin” upper, which provided the shoe with a low-key iridescence. And while the celery shoe was popular, it was the plum fog colorway (right on time with the year’s love affair with mauve), that turned heads and made this shoe a must own among true sneaker heads, male and female alike.
7. Adidas Consortium x Naked: Samoa & Ultra Boost: Aqua Blue: Adidas did a really genius thing this year, kicking off a series of collaboration with its best retail and media partners created under a new Consortium division. Some amazing shoes have resulted from the creative partnerships and what’s cool about them is not just beautifully designed product, but also that they’re global launches that speak to a local story. Released this month, Adidas Consortium’s collaboration with highly-regarded women’s sneaker store Naked has produced two gorgeous shoes, a Samoa and Ultra Boost, both offered in Naked’s signature color, an aqua blue, a shout out to the ocean waters that surround Copenhagen, where the store is located. The campaign was also uniquely beautiful and a reminder why inclusiveness is an important part of advancing creativity.
6. Vans x Nordstrom: Old Skool & Chukka: Pink & Baby Blue Fur: Fur, both faux and real was a certified thing in fashion this year, and Vans and Nordstrom with design direction from Nordstrom’s director of creative projects, Olivia Kim, made the most of the trend with a collection that included exclusive faux fur and velvet sneakers in an array of silhouettes and colors. Commenting on the collabo, Kim said, “I feel like ever since I’ve moved to Seattle, well, I’ve always been inspired by Kurt Cobain, but now that I live here I feel like it comes up more so. You could pull off a Cobain look with these shoes, over-sized women’s sunglasses and a vintage mohair cardigan. I wanted the shoes to be as hairy as possible. Really textured and kind of like a fuzzy bedroom slipper.” The shoes were not just a big win for Vans, but also for Nordstrom, and helped the retailer evolve from one that sells sneakers to creating products that speak to and are part of the culture.
5. Gucci Ace: Multiple Colors: Just like everything he touches, Gucci head creative Allessandro Michele took on the piping hot trend of classic white leather sneakers and elevated it with the launch of the Gucci Ace, a simple silhouetted decorated with utterly charming details like embroidered bees and flowers and sparkle lightening bolts. And rather than just throw up the shoes at retail, Gucci took a page out of the marketing books of athletic brands and created a series of videos celebrating the shoes with a variety of creatives, ranging from Capetown-based Fiance Knowles, know for embroidering on unusual surfaces to Korean longboarder sensation, Hyo Joo and Canadian animator James Kerr. There is a certain uptown girl who wanted a white sneaker, but needed to make a lux statement and these shoes fit the bill for her perfectly.
4. Air Jordan Heiress 11 in Burgundy: December 2016 was the battle of the velvets and the Jordan Heiress was a shoe that really rocked women’s worlds. Mindful that young women have long purchased Jordans in more appealingly-priced grade school sizes, last year the brand generously expanded sizing to bring even more women into the party, and this shoe really was a toast to their support of the brand. First revealed by daughter of Michael Jordan, Jasmine Jordan, the shoe made the most of a velvet materials story, creating a woman’s shoe that lived up to Jordan’s heritage as the world’s first luxury sneaker.
3. Puma by Fenty Creeper: Bordeaux/Green and Velvet Burgundy: The Puma by Fenty creeper was our No. 1 shoe last year and holding on to a top spot with women is always a challenge because we are far less married to brands than our brothers in the game. That said, the brand and the icon met the challenge with a series of fresh new color stories, including a “Gucci” green/burgundy colorway that was a breakout hit. Puma and Rihanna wrapped up 2017 and put a bow on it with a trio of holiday velvets that lit up social media when they first appeared on the scene and indeed just like every other style before it, the three shoes evaporated upon arrival.
2. Nike SF AF 1 Field Boot with Matching Tote Bag: White & Olive: Having been left out of a lot of the conversation for women’s offering in 2015, Nike came back with a score to settle, offering a edgy boot version of the Air Force 1 designed by Ben Kirschner that took a page out of Kanye West’s edgy and military-inspired Yeezy boots. Next level design features included an secret storage pocket in the shoe’s tongue and removable straps that either could be used to adorn the shoe or as handles on an equally cool matching tote bag. As well, these shoes were released in very limited numbers and as such conferred automatic HBIC status to any woman lucky enough to be spotted stunting in a pair.
1. Adidas Originals NMD R1: Multiple Colors: Even though this shoe launched officially in late 2015, its official coming out party came in March 2016. Launched in in multiple colorways (including the burgundy shown below), several were sized for women, a message from Adidas right from the start that women were going to be invited to a place at the table. Take a walk down Broadway in SoHo, which to some degree functions as the stock exchange for hot kicks globally, and the vast majority of folks who aren’t wearing Stan Smith or Superstar sneakers are making their way down the block in NMD kicks. Indeed, this year really belonged to this quirky yet lovable sneaker whose every launch is still evaporating upon arrival.
Shoes on the bubble: Reebok x Melody Ehsani Question Mid, Nike Cortez Velvet: ice blue and burgundy; Adidas Gazelle: multiple colors, Filling Pieces Runner 3.0 Low Fuse: Caviar/Navy; Air Jordan 1 Heiress: burgundy and Nike Air Presto: navy blue.