What Do Designers Think Was The Shoe Of The Year (2016)?

After last years discussion about “Shoe of the Year” from a host of highly respected footwear industry insiders, it’s about time to think about what shoe best epitomized this last year (2016). Footwear News has given 2016’s “Shoe of the Year” award to Puma’s Creeper for Rihanna, but what do other footwear industry insiders think?

From designers known for working with celebrities to independent footwear designers + developers and brand owners, professional shoe buyers and blogger extraordinaire’s, I’ve compiled a group of super interesting industry insiders that offer up a slightly different take on what they each saw as the “Shoe of the Year”.

Check out what Javier Laval, Omar Bailey, Brett Golliff, Salehe Bembury, David Mawdsley & myself, thought was “The Shoe of the Year”, below.


Javier Laval

Android Homme founder and all around creative, enabler and O.G.

JL: This shoe is actually pretty interesting to me as one of my good friends Billy from Mr. Completely here in LA designed the shoe originally as a part of his clothing collection. He was taking adidas, air forces, Puma Clydes, and some other styles and literally removing the sole and gluing a classic creeper bottom to the upper. He came by my office and asked if I could help him make more of these with some of my factory contacts and I told him I could, but they would have to remove the branded logos and could do similar styles without any of the Nike, adidas, puma branding. He told me he would think about it and come back if he wanted to move forward. Next thing I know I start seeing the exact shoe he “designed” being advertised as Rihanna’s new collab shoe for puma. I found out that he was working with Rihanna and the Puma team to develop that shoe and more styles. As for shoe of the year I think it’s a great classic style that was brought back with the creeper tooling for that additional nostalgia. I can appreciate that as well as its popularity due to being Rihanna’s shoe. I’m personally happy for his success and the success of the Rihanna team. Personally, I think there are many more credible options for “shoe of the year” but maybe this is a popularity/sales award not necessarily a design award.

Omar Bailey

Independant footwear designer & developer having worked with adidas, Supreme, New Balance and countless other brands, as well as co-founding the Modern Vice footwear factory in the heart of NYC and currently creating his own eponymous shoe brand (@OmarBaileyFootwear).

OB: For me I feel like a stronger statement for shoe(s) of the year would have to go to Adidas. I did work for the three stripes in the early 2000’s, and all I can say is that they have come a long way and what they’re doing is very impressive. I remember very clearly how stubborn they were about logo placement and material use, and it would drive us designer’s crazy and we felt very limited (or at least I did).
From the NMD’s, to the Tubular collection, and the boost technology from a visual standpoint, I think Adidas cemented their position in the lifestyle/streetwear market and put everybody on notice that there not playing around anymore. As a shoe developer I am in love the last shapes, the patterns, and the boldness of the way these styles look and what they represent. All I can say is I am looking forward to seeing how they build on this foundation in 2017…and you should too.

Brett Golliff

Designer & blogger extraordinaire, staying extremely vocal within the footwear design community, either through articles or his own footwear creations. Brett currently designs automobiles for GM, having designed footwear for New Balance previously.

BG: This year was really odd for me, I don’t know if I’m getting older and my taste is evolving or if I’m getting harder to impress or if footwear is just stagnant right now. But I had a hard time choosing my “Shoe Of The Year”. So I broke it down in three different ways.

1. The Acronym Presto
I don’t really get into collaborations very often. For me no matter if it’s footwear or streetwear, it seems like a gimmick. Like who needs a Bap X Coca-Cola shirt? Makes no sense to me. However, the Acronym Presto was perfect.

Visually it was so utilitarian but yet avant-garde. It was bold yet minimal. The proportion of materials and the additional welds on the fore feet felt so natural to me. And the material and color palette was a perfect blend of the two brands.

This was a collaboration that felt right and will be looked back upon as a huge success because it was authentic in its nature. It felt like a true natural blending of creative entities.

2. Fear Of God Military Sneaker
If you know me or have read my articles before you are probably questioning everything about this choice. And I get why. I admit, this shoe even surprises me that I like it.

I feel we are at a very weird time of footwear design wear all of these points are intersecting. Sneakers are no longer a trending piece in fashion as they are as much of the business of fashion as they are athletic. Every brand seems to have their take on classic silhouettes that they knew growing up or is a proven success to them. So basically you get a ton of Air Force 1’s and Jordan I variants. Which is cool I guess but seems so less courageous to me.

What inspires me about the Fear Of God shoe is it tells the brands story so well. It aligns perfectly with their aesthetic and clothing and while the price-point is insane, in some way it feels ok to me. I will admit I have never worn a pair but it looks and feels impeccable. It’s very well produced. And for being the brands first original footwear offering, you can tell they had a phenomenal development team. Their last shape is perfect.

So in a field and era where design seems to be comfortable only referencing what it knows, this sets forth it’s own view for the world. I respect the hell out of them for that.

And the color and materials are perfect!

3. adidas FutureLab
For most innovative and groundbreaking I’m going with everything adidas FutureLab is putting out. I am super tired of seeing the UltraBoost tooling but every concept they put on that sole is perfect. From the work with Alexander Taylor Studio’s on the recycled Parley shoe, to the CNC-milling of leather to make the natural leather crust part of the aesthetic and most recently the BioSteel concept, they can’t lose. It’s very inspiring and quite honestly the level of detail and thought isn’t being shown anywhere else the industry.

It gives me hope that future product isn’t just about recreating the past and making the consumer content with only what they know.

Salehe Bembury

Footwear designer known for his super innovative work with Cole Haan (Cole Haan LunarGrand), GREATS and YEEZY.

SB: Joe Sparano once said, “Good design is obvious, great design is transparent.” Jerry Lorenzo has proven this theory with the Fear of God Military Sneaker. In my eyes it was one of those, “Why didn’t I think of that” shoes. Not only has it surpassed most sneakers in the market, it has the legs to withstand the test of the time. It’s one thing to design a successful silhouette, however to create a “business” with one silhouette is an entirely different feat. I’d also like to give an honorable mention to Errolson for those Acronym Prestos. Butter!


David Mawdsley

Footwear designer + developer known from his work with Represent (Dusk Boot), and the “Orion” for AKIO. David has also worked as a buyer for Foot Asylum, one of the U.K.’s largest sneaker retailers.

DM: “Shoe Of The Year” is tough to call. It hurts a little having to pit your personal favorites against obvious industry performers.
I also find it offensive not to consider the countless amount of thought provocative concepts that have been channeled through the CK platforms. Works from Safa Sahin, Mr. Bailey, Salehe Bembury, Alexander Taylor just to name a few, have offered some beautiful ideas. Not to offend anyone by not mentioning their names or brands, but credit to everyone who’s been proactive this year. If it wasn’t for innovation from others, we might find it difficult to be motivated to push the boundaries.

I keep battle with the idea that the classic Chelsea Boot is a clear winner as it’s a shoe that’s been re-invented over the year by so many, but this arena is too broad to channel down. I also have to consider the most stylistically intriguing shoe to be the ACRONYM x NikeLab Air Presto Mid, a shoe which in my eyes has been the strongest progressive shoe for Nike in 2016. It’s just hard, mean looking!

But, my decision however comes as one of the most current, sought after franchises within the “mainstream” arena…The Adidas NMD (Nomad). It may not have been a huge shoe in terms of sales in comparison to the rest of the brand’s product roster, or hyped up as much as current high-energy assets such as YEEZY, but it has been a BIG player within the Asian & EU markets .The Nomad comes via a strong range of silhouettes, the R1, City Sock, XR1, C1 & we can’t forget the Pharrell Williams Human Race joints. Having created a stir within the sneaker community, the shoe has become a canvas for collaborations with staple entities such as A Bathing Ape, raising its profile even higher, but also provoked creative outlets for such modern craftsman as Randy The Cobbler, who prove it’s a shoe that has way more to offer. When you head to the Far East, it has been counterfeited continuously by every factory I’ve come across, or have created a “version of”, but success has been poor as no one seems to be able to touch Boost, nor Primeknit technology. Boasting Adidas’ cloud soft, Boost sole composition, a 1piece Primeknit vamp, rubberised branding application & having covered the ever-growing trend of a scalene triangular last shapes, the shoe has played a big part in merging ultra comfort, simplicity & modern footwear engineering together to bring us the most relevant everyday casual sneaker to date. With the trefoil currently dominating the game, I’m looking forward to seeing what is in Adidas’ locker for 2017.

Me (Mr. Bailey)

Footwear designer + developer currently creating footwear for myself and collaborators under my alter ego, Mr. Bailey and clients via ConceptKicks/cklab.

Mr.B: It’s been an interesting year for footwear. I can’t honestly say that one shoe stands head and shoulders above any another, but I do have some personal favorites for reasons that I don’t think would normally place a product in a conversation for “Shoe of the Year”.

My “Shoe(s) of the Year” award goes to the Royal Remastered NikeLab series (the Air Max 90, Internationalist Mid & Air Safari). Coming from an arena where I’m constantly trying to find ways to innovate the footwear construction process (and also save some money in the process, moulds are expensive), these shoes really resonate with me. Every single shoe could realistically be created by a small independent brand working on a modest budget. The only moulds I can see being used on these would be on the Outsole on each model and the air bubble on the Air Max 90. Aside from that, they’ve utilized pre-fab EVA and wrapped thick layers of leather to act as heel counters and mid-soles. For me, this a step forward from what HenderScheme cleverly started; a handmade-feeling, leather combination style with modern aesthetics. Whereas Henderscheme concentrated more on uppers, Nike took it a littler further execution wise by taking that mindset into the sole unit, but also combining it with tech. The uppers are super clean also, though I think using a real leather/suede upper would have given these shoe’s even more of a “royal” feel.

I also have to give a shout out to everything adidas has done and continues to do, particularly their Futurecraft series with Alexander Taylor Studio. They continue to push innovation and are forcing the industry to keep thinking forward. It’s also great seeing Puma back on the scene, there was a while back when Puma Black was basically Y3 before there was…well, Y3. They’ve been doing a great job with collaborations so it’ll be interesting to see how they continue develop in the near future.





Mr. Bailey

Product Designer + Footwear Architect | Founder of @ConceptKicks | www.MrBailey.co.uk

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