What Do Designers Think Was The Shoe Of The Year?

on Kanye winning the ‘Shoe Of The Year’ from Footwear News for his Yeezy Boost line with adidas a few days ago. I do personally like the Yeezy Boost line, and Kanye himself, regardless of how he chooses to voice his opinions, he has a lot of my respect for what he’s trying to do/doing.

My main issue with this award was that it seems a little disingenuous on FN’s part. Just what exactly was the award based on? And why weren’t the team of designers also up on that stage? I just had a sneaking suspicion that Footwear News pretty much based this award on how they would be able to generate the most press exposure for themselves. Which is really nothing new, however I do think it would be a massive shame if other shoes that came out this year that pushed both functional innovation and construction techniques, but didn’t quite have the mass appeal of a Yeezy sneaker, got over shadowed.

So as promised, I reached to out to a few designers/creatives/industry insiders, to also get their opinions on the matter. Basically I asked two questions;

1. What are your thoughts on Kanye winning the shoe of the year award?
2. What was your personal shoe of the year?

Two fairly simple questions, with some very interesting answers. Before delving into the various rants and opinions below, I just wanted to thank D’Wayne, Brett, Javier, David & Jason for taking the time to share their thoughts. You can see their in-depth answers, below.

D’Wayne Edwards

Founder of PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy | Former Footwear Design Director at Brand Jordan


“If, it takes Kanye to make sneakers more important or respected I am not mad at Kanye. As a matter of fact THANK YOU Kanye for giving us a voice.”


In my opinion the adidas Ultra Boost was the best shoe I put on my feet in 2015. I am old school and a Designer so I am not swayed by hype, ads, marketing or personalities.
The kicks I rock is because “I like them” not because they are posted on Hypebeast “everyday” and my taste comes from a grounded place of:

1. Originality (1st impression) = After 27 years in this industry I am aware of the history of kicks so I seek things that have a different visual language
2. Details (2nd holding it in my hands) = I look at kicks in sections. Outsole Manufacturing, Materials, Upper Construction, Branding, etc. I have liked kicks because there was a new stitching method that the normal consumer would not notice.
3. Fit (trying it on) = My feet are old and I need comfort. I don’t care how nice kicks look if they are not comfortable they will be donated to Goodwill.
4. Rotation = I get a lot of free kicks so I have options and if I wear a shoe more than 3 times a month or when I travel it’s a keeper.
This year alone I have been on about 35 planes and some form of a Boost has been on my feet every time (except for Yeezy’s because I don’t own a pair).

Let me go on a rant for a minute…. In MY opinion sneakers have been ignored by the “mainstream” media from industry publications, design publications, business publications, etc. except for when someone is getting killed or robbed for them and for someone who has made a living in this industry for over 2 decades this hurts because I know it HAS done SO MUCH more the consumers than other forms of footwear.

>SNEAKERS has taught pre-teens how to be entrepreneurs making thousands of dollars a month selling kicks.
>SNEAKERS has taught kids how to save and budget their money.
>SNEAKERS has inspired kids to get better grades with programs like J’s(Jordan’s) for A’s
>SNEAKERS has increased how many kids go to college to learn how to design
>SNEAKERS has allowed athletes to make more money from them than more lifetime professions
>SNEAKERS is a 25+ BILLION dollar industry
>SNEAKERS has allowed a kid like me who had a better chance of ending up dead or in jail than having a career to have a pretty good one only to give it up to make sure others like me don’t become a statistic.

I can go on and on but you get my point but… Yes, kids lose their life over kicks which is horrible but that is not a “sneaker” problem that is “lack of value for a life” issue which other industries have as well. If, it takes Kanye to make sneakers more important or respected I am not mad at Kanye. As a matter of fact THANK YOU Kanye for giving us a voice.
I have never met Kanye but I respect his creative vision because I know of him through friends that have and are working with him, that he does actually care about design. MUCH RESPECT! We (sneakers) need you and others to help shed light on the power and impact our culture have.

Ok, rant over….

Back to the topic…. No, I do not think the Yeezy should have won Shoe of the Year. I do not own a pair so my opinion is based on what I have worn and I would give that to adidas Ultra Boost. I guess adidas still wins….


Brett Golliff

Designer | Blogger | Footwear Extraordinaire


Am I mad about him winning the award? No. Am I surprised by it? No. Am I happy about it? Yes. Get this straight though, this award means nothing about design.


It’s funny because we started this year off talking about the Yeezy and now we are ending this year talking about the Yeezy. If you go back to what I said about my initial thoughts of the Yeezy 750 Boost it wasn’t positive. I wasn’t angry at the shoe, I was angry at Kanye. I wanted him to create his own view, give his perspective on what footwear was. Now, here we are discussing him getting awarded for doing just that.

Am I mad about him winning the award? No. Am I surprised by it? No. Am I happy about it? Yes.

Get this straight though, this award means nothing about design. This award is solely for its effect on the industry. Kanye is the most captivating individual in this landscape. Lets be real, his fashion is his music and his music is his fashion. That movement and it’s encompassing affect is what has been awarded.

While I don’t love the 750, I respect it more then I did in the beginning of the year. The 350 on the other hand, that is a good shoe. Overpriced, but a fucking good shoe. It is simple and pure but well executed. What I have loved the most about “his” design work is that it isn’t about themes or colorways, it is about moods. That idea has always been discussed in footwear but never really accomplished. His releases aren’t about being a seasonal color concept as they are about matching the mood of the season. They have been kind of pessimistic and are now verging on optimism as the hues get brighter. There is something fresh about that. And whether we like it or not, his consumers live for it. Did you every think you would see a 1,000 kids lining up outside of Barney’s… BARNEY’S!, to get sneakers? Not even Jordan can do that.

With all this said, I fear more about what this is creating for the future of footwear design. As I said before, this award is not for design as it is for the movement. My fear is the influence it will have on a generation of kids. While he is a new designer, Kanye has been able to craft his look and feeling for decades. He isn’t solving problems like most of us footwear designers have been trained to do but he his creating resolutions for his aesthetic feelings. That isn’t an easy thing to do. That is a very mature way of creating that not many can do. The reason being is because there is no right or wrong answer for what he creates because it is just an avant garde look. Who is to say what is right and wrong about it? I worry that his influence will create an influx of designers that are just trying to do him and not really learning how to craft good product. I hope he grasps how powerful he really is now.

He will always be that college dropout that made it to graduation but I hope he realizes that his influence needs to push people to learn how to craft great product.

So congrats on the award, now go create great product.

Funny part of all this, is I never once mentioned adidas. And neither does Kanye.


Javier Laval

Founder / Designer of Android Homme


“Overall the level of influence that Kanye has on anything he touches is a blessing to him and anyone he endorses or supports.”


The term “shoe of the year” is probably not a good term under any circumstances. It doesn’t really reflect the global scale of footwear brands and manufacturers that develop footwear for many different segments, and different applications of use. Is the Yeezy boost the shoe of the year compared to say the Nike Flyease that helps people with disabilities and special needs then my answer is a resounding “Hell No”. But clearly this is not the context in which FN assess or decided who they will choose as Shoe of the Year.  Is the Yeezy Boost shoe of the year in terms of unique design, hype, sales, resell value, and leading the resurgence of Adidas then i say “Hell Yeah”.  Overall the level of influence that Kanye has on anything he touches is a blessing to him and anyone he endorses or supports. He is able to innovate and bring to market designs that probably would be scoffed or criticized by other designers.  Now to basically answer the question you asked, yes I believe the Yeezy boost is the shoe of the year under the circumstances in which it is being recognized. I tip my hat to all of the people involved and Adidas for giving the guy the flexibility that Nike was not allowing. Clearly it’s paying off. 

Nike Flyease is a shoe that really touched me due to the story and intention behind its design. Often times we are not really designing with a purpose to actually help people. We design to make people look good, or comfortable but rarely is it to actually help in a unique way. Nike Flyease would have gotten my vote even though it’s not as popular or something that I would wear personally but the innovation, thought, and creativity behind it to make a special needs person smile and feel just like the rest of us is enough for me.

David Whetstone

Design Director at Astro Studios


“When we look back on 2015 sneaker releases, we will first think about the impact the Yeezy had on culture and the growth of the Originals brand.”


When I first heard news of the Kanye X adidas relationship I was most excited about the potential for Kanye as a muse to empower adidas design. Kanye has in a way “creative directed” our generation as he’s explored his own interests; polos and backpacks, neon shutter shades, red leather suits, and of course black leather jogging pants. I’ve always been interested and inspired by the way Kanye thinks big picture to tell stories. Experiences like a full-album music video for “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” free “G.O.O.D. Music Friday” releases leading up to “MBDTF,” or the Twitter prompted global projections for the release of his “New Slaves” single have all added a twist to what we expect from our artists. And the Kanye X adidas Yeezy Boost has kept this momentum moving forward. It’s been bigger than a shoe. It’s an idea that’s resonated with people, helped reinvigorate a brand, and introduced people to new subcultures.

When the collaboration was announced, Kanye was moving away from luxurious black leather of the Watch the Throne days in favor of a more natural, classic, and accessible look. At the same time, fashion as a whole was embracing the ath-leisure movement to create a uniform for urban residents on the go. The Yeezy Boost amplified both worlds by combining the two ideas. It truly represented what 2015 was about and gave us something to be excited about looking forward.

The release of the 750s in February of 2015 has been integral in providing direction for the Originals brand to break away from a “classics only” mindset and embrace a more futuristic perspective. Clearly, Kanye’s position as a creative looking forward has helped adidas embrace a new, exciting design aesthetic. Yeezy, adidas Originals, and Y-3 all seem to be working under the same design direction, and it’s been interesting to watch how each of those categories use slightly different ingredients to create curated expressions of an overarching idea. I’ve been inspired to see compelling brand stories like Tubular, EQT, and NMD emerge from a category that needed a spark. I had never seen lines for an adidas shoe, now with the Yeezy line as a brand lead, we’re seeing shoes like the NMB under the Orginials umbrella sell out on the first day.

Finally, and like Kanye, the Yeezy’s have helped bridge the gap between streetwear, sneaker culture, and high fashion. I live in San Francisco where we have Acrimony, a retail store that carries forward looking fashion brands like OAMC, Public School, and DRKSHDW. They now carry the Yeezy apparel line, and have carried the Yeezy Boosts along the way. It’s been so interesting to see how the clientele has changed even on days that aren’t a Yeezy day.

When we look back on 2015 sneaker releases, we will first think about the impact the Yeezy had on culture and the growth of the Originals brand. It’s without a doubt the shoe of the year.


Jason Mayden

Co-Founder + CPO @Slyce.io | Designer @Accel Partners | Media Designer @Stanford d.School | Former Sr Global Design Director-Brand Jordan


“One thing that I’ve always said is that Ye is someone who is an artist that happens to use music as his medium, and now footwear and fashion have become another way he’s chosen to express himself.”


(This was a phone interview, I’ll post the audio soon)

You have to look at it from the overall macro-political landscape of Footwear News in general. FN as a platform is struggling because it isn’t as much as a destination as it used to be. It’s readership and following isn’t dominating as much as it used to in past years because there’s a myriad of other platforms for people top go an get information.

The first piece is asking whether FN gave this award because it’ll boot their readership and their clicks. What’s the incentive? I would start there, beyond the shoe award, what do they get from this. That’s what’s so tricky to discern, is this an award or is it something for them to get more people to their site because the halo associated with Kanye.

Second piece is understanding what it is what it took for the public to accept his (Kanye’s) passion to want to be a designer. One thing that I’ve always said is that Ye is someone who is an artist that happens to use music as his medium, and now footwear and fashion have become another way he’s chosen to express himself. One could argue, I’m not particularly taking a position on this, that people are having vitriolic responses to this because it’s like LeBron leaving Cleveland and going to Miami and winning a championship. He will always be associated with Nike, he’s from Chicago, so Jordan in his DNA.  Him leaving what would be considered to be the top brand, to what would be considered the next brand, automatically comes with a little bit of pushback from the industry because it’s almost like he made a bad decision. So him standing up there on that stage, there’s a lot of pent up emotions about that as well. People are saying, ‘wait, he left, he did what he said he wanted to do’, and hate or love the product, he’s standing their smiling, getting celebrated for his collection.

The third piece is understanding the footwear landscape in general. People aren’t going to pay for product anymore that doesn’t have some type of residual value beyond technology. Technology isn’t enough, especially in footwear because in my opinion, being in the silicon valley, it isn’t technology, it’s incremental innovation that causes things to get a little bit better, but not exponentially better.
What Ye did wasn’t really innovation, he captured an aesthetic, he cleaned it up, made it simplified and told a narrative and brought it to fashion week in a disruptive way. So the reason why I’m giving all of those examples is because I do genuinely believe the award was given off of hype and virility of the story, because that’s what people are attracted to these days. People are attracted to stories, not quality. These shoes had the best story of the year, and it started when he first left Nike.

Now when you think about what really happened in the footwear industry from a technology stand point, there are way better products. You have the Nike Vapour Untouchable II, that thing is beautiful. It’s functional, it’s light weight, it has Flyweave (which is a Jordan invention), it’s pushing the boundaries of what an American Football cleat means and those are the products to me that when you have to turn your head, squint and say ‘I like it, but I’m not really comfortable with it, but does it make me better?’, those are breakthrough products. Then you have your adi pure boost, which came out in 2014 but carried into ’15 and created a phenomenon, now that’s a better product. The whole boost movement is amazing and I think it should get more credit, because it is a very comfortable shoe, very technologically advanced, the production processes are very unique and different as they’re borrowed from the automotive industry, so that is fundamentally different. They had to reinvent their supply chain to make that shoe. To me, those are things that should get celebrated because it teaches the consumer and the kids, to always push the boundaries and discover better problems to solve and to ask better questions. There are no better questions that are going to be asked from a fashion based shoe. It isn’t going to push a kid to think deeper about how I can contribute to society and use my talents to improve quality of life for an athlete, because that’s why I got in this industry, to work for and with athletes. The fashion aspect was always secondary to the performance aspect, though it is absolutely valid. Unfortunately, when people regard fashion as function, for example, a certain colorway or material they want to wear with an outfit, cannot be considered innovation, I would disagree.

The whole system is broken. I think the people who gave the award, their incentives were misaligned with the intentions of the fans and the people who follow the industry, but that’s just the way it is, i do think that we live in a world where the consumer decide with their dollars. That’s partly because they want to support Kanye at retail, but it’s also part of the halo of who Kanye is. It could be an album or it could be a shoe, a bottle of water – he’s going to move units. It’s a slippery slope, because I would say the industry now is over saturated with people claiming to be ‘sneaker heads’. I have people come up to me all the time saying they’re ‘sneaker heads’, I wouldn’t even personally call myself one, I just love sneakers. This is something I’ve been doing since I was a kid, and I don’t need a title to validate my love and my passion for it, but it’s become a thing you say to sound like you fit in. That makes me even more unattracted to the sneaker game, because it’s grown up to me an elitist, superlative movement, where people use these labels to make them seem more valuable then other people. If you love it (sneakers), and you collect and support the industry, it’s a personal thing, you do it because you love it, not something you do for people to stare at you and give you a pat on the back. I dress every morning for myself, I want to promote a certain energy and positivity. What we’ve walked into is an industry that’s being pushed towards self promotion and the selling of stories rather than the selling of dreams and hope.

I’m not surprised by the win for shoe of the year, they probably gave it to him before the even had any concept of what the shoe looked like, they’ve probably been wanting to do this for a while so they could just meet him and also have people click on their website make these links and have these discussions, because this is exactly what they want.

Daniel Bailey (Mr. Bailey)

Founder of ConceptKicks | Co-Founder of The ConceptKicks Lab llc


“I think adidas in general have made huge strides as a brand and I’m genuinely looking forward to every release.”

I’ve already shared my opinions on the shoe of the year award, but I would also like to share my thoughts on some other shoe’s I think deserve a mention for very different reasons.

Firstly I’ll be selfish and mention my Mr. Bailey x ekn footwear, Bamboo Runner. I know, how conceited of me. However, I bring them up for the fact that this is the first sneaker I’ve seen in a long time that garnered the type of attention it did from a streetwear/style standpoint that is 100% sustainably produced, and coming from an independent brand. It’s a design that was intended to stand out a little and cause a reaction. Hate them or love them, that’s exactly what they caused. The idea being to bring sustainably produced, differently designed, footwear to the forefront. Just because something is sustainable, that doesn’t mean it can’t push style/design boundaries. Though the exposure and admiration for them may pale in comparison to a lot of the shoes mentioned in this article, what these shoe represent, the potential of what’s to come, and the mind-state they may effect, is what I believe make them worthy of being brought up in this conversation.

Aside from bigging myself up, I’m actually partial to what adidas Originals and Y-3 have been putting out, just in general from a design language standpoint. The Futurecraft series is also incredibly interesting. I think adidas in general have made huge strides as a brand and I’m genuinely looking forward to every release. It’s hard for me to pick one shoe from them because they’ve got a number that I just love. For me just the pure consistency of level of shoes they continue to release is impressive. The award went to the right company, and depending on what you’re basing the award on, could have gone to a few different shoes from them.


Mr. Bailey

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

  • jamdeltav - 4 years ago

    Great article!

    I do like the Yeezy line and while I’m not particularly a fan of Kanye I do respect him. As a creative, is hard to know the inside story. Obviously he’s a design influence in his product, but also who’s executing it? It’s sad to think that the actual designers will be undermined by the personality. (I’m sure this happens quite often)

    In the other side, its clear that Adidas needed a refreshment even before Kanye came in. For me the 2 shoes of the year would be the Y-3 Qasa (I know it’s a few years old), because it’s influencing everything adidas does including the Yeezy style) They are evolving their foundations and going out of their comfort zone. Finally the ultra boost. This one achieved one of the hardest things which is to make a running shoe stylish and highly functional. Probably not enough to a more specialized consumer. But the wide angle approach of this shoe and simplicity reflects Adidas values renewed.

    For my personal take (As a footwear designer), this is a good lesson. Combine great skills and personality. Not for the awards but for the doors that it opens to help evolve brands/corporations. Also I love D’Wayne Edwards notes on how sneakers can influence positively in future generations and this as well should be rewarded. Something we all should be working on.

    Finally, what a great time for footwear design! I’m looking forward for all the future releases. Adidas is gaining terrain so i’m excited for the comeback from Nike, Puma, Reebok, NB, etc. And not only the big brands but also there’s so much coming from many other brands.