With 2021 coming to a close, we're looking back at the most coveted sneakers and shoes of the year.
Brands and designers rolled out unexpected collaborations and designs, including the ugly-chic Balenciaga x Crocs heeled clogs, as well as Salehe Bembury's buzzy Pollex clogs. Yoon of AMBUSH continued her hyped Nike Dunk High drops, while Kanye West kept his YEEZY footwear line strong with the FOAM RUNNER. Our Instagram feeds were dominated by New Balance's 550 shoe, and UGG made a big comeback with its Classic Ultra Mini boot.
Scroll down below to explore the best sneakers and shoes of the year. While you're at it, peep the top fashion brands, designers and it-items of 2021.
adidas YEEZY FOAM RUNNER
Kanye West first unveiled the YEEZY FOAM RUNNER back in 2019, revealing that the avant-garde style would be made from algae. After much anticipation, he finally dropped the "ugly" shoe in 2020, marking another coveted silhouette in his footwear lineup. The popularity of the clog-style shoe continued in 2021 as new colorways rolled out, including "Mineral Blue" and "MX Cream Clay." After the recent "MX Sand" colorway, images of a new Foam Runner design surfaced, with release details yet to be confirmed.
The adidas YEEZY FOAM RUNNER is available via platforms like StockX with prices starting at $177 USD.
AMBUSH x Nike Dunk High "Deep Royal Blue"
AMBUSH's Yoon continued her coveted Nike Dunk partnership with a "Deep Royal Blue" colorway. The kicks first surfaced in January after the duo had released the "Cosmic Fuchsia" and black/white colorways. The designer continued to tease the new iteration on her Instagram posts, eventually leading to the official launch in May. The duo followed up on the pair with a striking "Flash Lime" design.
The AMBUSH x Nike Dunk High "Deep Royal Blue" is being sold via platforms like StockX with prices starting at $260 USD.
Amina Muaddi Begum Glass Transparent PVC
HBO's hit show Insecure starring Issa Rae released its fifth and final season premiered this fall, with a hilarious scene highlighting Amina Muaddi's Begum heels. Issa (played by Issa Rae) gets excited for a night out with her old classmates, only to get robbed. In addition to their shoes and bags, the thieves go for Molly(Yvonne Orji)'s shoes, which happen to be the transparent PVC slippers. "You want the shoes, take the damn shoes," Molly says. Issa then takes off her own flats, which the robber refuses to take: "Oh no. You can keep them Issa, keep them."
Amina Muaddi's Begum Glass Transparent PVC shoes can be purchased via retailers like Mytheresa.
Balenciaga x Crocs Heeled Clogs
Balenciaga rolled out a number of high-fashion footwear designs this year such as the five-toe bootie with Vibram. On the Spring 2022 runway, the fashion house unveiled a collaboration with Crocs, featuring heeled and knee-length versions of the Classic Clog. The ugly-chic designs were promoted through an eccentric campaign featuring life-sized human sculptures.
The Crocs x Balenciaga collection is currently available via the Parisian house's stores.
JJJJound x New Balance 990v4
Following up on their M992 drop, JJJJound and New Balance joined forces once again for a minimalist iteration of the 990v4. The popular silhouette arrives in a navy/black colorway, donning the usual "N" logo on the sides. Featuring a combination of nubuck and mesh, the upper comes with subtle 3M detailing and reflective elastic laces for a technical touch.
The JJJJound x New Balance 990v4 is available on StockX with prices starting at $283 USD.
New Balance 550 "White/Green"
New Balance's 550 trainer, first introduced in 1989, made a comeback last year with an Aimé Leon Dore collaboration. The team-up led to a rise in the popularity of the classic basketball silhouette, sparking a slew of colorways and new collaborations. One of the standouts was the "White/Green" iteration, which arrives with a white base highlighted with dark green throughout. A pale gray suede material is added to the toe box, while "550" branding on the upper rounds out the look.
The New Balance 550 "White/Green" is available on StockX with prices starting at $284 USD.
Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High "Dark Mocha"
Nike dropped a chocolate brown-themed iteration of its Air Jordan 1 Retro High silhouette in 2020, creating buzz for its resemblance to the highly coveted Cactus Jack collaboration highlighted with a reverse Swoosh. The shoe boasts a neutral palette of "Dark Mocha," black and white, with the brown shade appearing on the collar and heel. The colorway remained one of the most sought-after this year.
You can cop the Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High "Dark Mocha" via StockX for prices ranging from $519 to $2,573 USD, depending on the sizing.
Salehe Bembury x Crocs Pollex Clog
Salehe Bembury gave Crocs' Classic Clog an unexpected twist. The designer applied his signature fingerprint motifs onto the OG shoe. Constructed with a foam upper, the Pollex clogs feature oval-shaped cutouts throughout, while Bembury's name appears on the ankle strap and footbed. The collaboration quickly took over social media as the creative continued to reveal new colorways, such as "Spackle," "Urchin," "Menemsha" and "Cucumber."
The Salehe Bembury x Crocs Pollex Clog is currently available on StockX with prices starting from $366 USD.
Salehe Bembury x New Balance 574
Salehe Bembury joined forces with New Balance to drop his take on the 574 shoe. The classic silhouette is updated with a whistle on the heel, following the outdoor-inspired theme of the collaboration that also includes apparel items. Arriving in tonal gray and multicolored iterations, the Yurt kicks are further highlighted with chunky midsoles.
The Salehe Bembury x New Balance 574 Yurt is available on platforms like StockX with prices starting at $167 USD.
UGG Classic Ultra Mini
UGG is back in style, whether you like it or not. The brand had a strong year with coveted collaborations with Telfar and Feng Chen Wang. Its regular silhouettes such as the Classic Ultra Mini -- a shrunken version of the iconic Classic boot -- became a go-to, often spotted on celebrities like Emily Ratajowski, Joan Smalls and Kendall Jenner.
The UGG Classic Ultra Mini retails for $140 USD online.