To describe 2020 as anything less than tumultuous would be a gross understatement. As the year winds down and we begin to look ahead to the promise of 2021, we’re all eager to leave behind a year which brought us a global pandemic, a fervent fight against racial justice and police brutality, and a devastating economic downturn. Like other industries, the sneaker industry wasn’t spared from the frustration, fluidity and–at times–utter devastation of 2020.

Nike, a pillar of stability and excellence in the sneaker industry for decades, didn’t get through the year unscathed. The company laid off hundreds of workers in the fall amid turbulent stretches and altered release schedules, as was the case with many other companies. Independent and nationwide retailers alike had to shutter their doors due to declining sales and stay-at-home orders. adidas is even looking to sell off its controlling interest in Reebok after a failed restructuring.

However, if there’s one thing the sneaker culture at large knows, it’s how to bring the community together. Despite many companies' struggles to adapt during a difficult year, they still found ways to contribute positively to their communities. Many brands came together to contribute whatever they could throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, from producing shoes for essential workers, to producing PPE. Everyone from New Balance to Allbirds chipped in. Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand pledged to donate $100 million over the next 10 years to “organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.”

And then there were the shoes. Despite the challenges companies faced throughout the year, it didn’t stop brands from coming out with exciting new footwear. We witnessed a full-on renaissance of the Dunk, a big year for the New Balance 992, and Jordan Brand celebrating monumental anniversaries for the Jordan I, V and XI. After the tragic death of Kobe Bryant back in January (and the ensuing months of uncertainty surrounding his Nike line), Nike began to release a plethora of Kobe retros, much to the delight of his legions of fans around the globe.

To commemorate the year that was—an up-and-down, never dull, often terrifying year if there ever was one–we decided to expand the traditional “Top 10” list and instead give you—in no particular order—the 14 Best Sneakers of 2020.

  1. Dior x Air Jordan I
  2. Off-White x Air Jordan V “Muslin”
  3. JJJJound x New Balance 992 “Mossy Green”
  4. Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance 550
  5. Stussy x Nike Air Zoom Spiridon Caged “Fossil”
  6. Ben & Jerry’s x Nike SB Dunk Low “Chunky Dunky”
  7. Nike Air Ship
  8. Stray Rats x New Balance 827 “Sewer Stomper”
  9. WTAPS x New Balance 992 “Olive Drab”
  10. Union Los Angeles x Jordan IV “Off Noir”
  11. Nike Dunk “Be True To Your School” Series
  12. Travis Scott x Nike SB Dunk Low “Cactus Jack”
  13. Salehe Bembury x New Balance 2002R
  14. Jordan III “UNC”

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