Sneakerhead Shares Best of 2021

Top 5 Sneakers of the Past Year

Landyn Goldberg

Landyn Goldberg





5. Air Max 90 “Bacon”

Release Date: March 26

Nike Air Max 90 Retro CU1816 100 Bacon 2021 (Photo courtesy

The Air Max 90 “Bacon” was an amazing retro for 2021. The reincarnation of the original 2004 collaboration with Dave’s Quality Meats had a perfect color palette for a perfect model. Even with the red, brown and pink being something not typically seen, , the “Bacon” 90s are able to match with a wide array of outfits from all styles, from basic athleisure to a more modern, baggier streetwear style. The “Bacon” 90s also heavily stick out as a standalone release by the brand itself in a year full of collaborations. Most of the year’s top shoes are all collaborations with other companies and designers. The “Bacon” 90 is different, and Nike did an amazing job in every aspect. 



4. Rich Paul x New Balance 550

Release Date: December 12

Rich Paul x New Balance 550 (Courtesy StockX)

The Rich Paul x New Balance 550 collaboration adds to the list of well-executed 550 model collaborations. This collaboration broke a common norm with Rich Paul being an NBA agent known for major clients like LeBron James rather than being a fashion designer. The set of colors, or colorway, perfectly mimics the original Minneapolis Lakers’ colorway, a subtle nod to James and Anthony Davis, stars of the Los Angeles Lakers and Paul’s biggest clients. The aged off-white color perfectly pairs with the vintage aesthetic the New Balance 550 bring and the overall color esthetic. The quality, in usual New Balance fashion, is on point all around. The shoe will continue to climb in value as a unique collaboration and colorway.



3. Size? x New Balance 550

The Size? x New Balance 550 collabs (Courtesy Size?)

Release Date: July 18

Similar to the Rich Paul 550, the Size? x New Balance collaboration was the trophy of all the 2021 New Balance 550 collaborations. Accompanied with a New Balance 574, the “College Pack” colorways was a perfect design with ideal color blockings, resembling a traditional Syracuse or Tennessee colorway found in Nike Dunks. The shoe’s exclusivity, only releasing at new U.K. retailer Size?, makes them sought after for those who discover them. The biggest drawback of the model is its similarity to the later-released New Balance 550 “Syracuse/Team Orange,” with almost identical color blocking and orange color palette. However, the Size? 550 trumps the “Syracuse” colorway due to its vintage aesthetic, common in most 550 collabs, matching common style aesthetics. 





2. New Balance 2002R “Protection Pack – Rain Cloud” 

Release Date; August 13

New Balance 2002R “Protection Pack – Rain Cloud”  (Photo courtesy StockX)

The New Balance 2002R is the best original release of 2021. This non collaborative pair is perfect in every way imaginable. The 2002R model itself is an amazing change of scenery from the common New Balance 990 or 992, both very common models in retail stores and collaborations in 2021. The deconstructed look of the Protection Pack is super unique with a cool origin story, with lead designer Yue Wu taking inspiration from the beat up look of older people’s New Balances throughout Boston. Though the Protection Pack also came with white and black colorways, the gray “Rain Cloud” colorway is by far the best, with a diverse array of gray and off-white hues which, as do all the shoes on this list, perfectly matches all aesthetics of today’s modern fashion. 


1. A Ma Maniére x Jordan 3

Release Date: April 28

Jordan 3 Retro, A Ma Maniére (Courtesy StockX)

There is practically consensus among sneakerheads that the A Ma Maniére Jordan 3 collaboration is No. 1.This shoe is executed perfectly, from the colorway, quality and manner of the release. This shoe gets a ton of credit for how the release was on the A Ma Maniére website.  In a time where using bots to get shoes and reselling ran all sneaker releases, the company had a plan that worked to defeat the resellers, giving those who genuinely wanted the shoe a fighting chance. Fashion has also shifted to feature mainly neutral color palettes, which the AMM 3s execute perfectly. The off white, gray and tan pair perfectly together in a shoe people can wear with almost anything. The quality is on point, with a well done and well looked-over model. The A Ma Maniére Jordan 3 is an amazing shoe in every aspect and deserved the No. 1 rating it has seen by sneakerheads and publishers alike.