A new year brings new sneakers from all of our favorite brands. Sneaker Report has supplied
A Shoe For Every Sport
From high intensity sneakers to yoga slippers, every sport will get the attention of athletic brands this year. Nike's Studio Wrap shoe for studio barre classes are available now, New Balance is rolling out a paddleboarding sneaker this Spring, and Asics will continue to offer a shoe for every niche sport out there. As we witnessed at last summer's Olympics, shoes already exist for practically every sport, but making them more assessable for the regular Joe is something we expect to see more of this year.
The six-sided shape is having a moment this Spring, seen above on New Balance's Hi-Rez minimal trail runner and on Vivobarefoot's Evo II. The simple structure works well for minimal runners, used on the much-anticipated Hi-Rez (April 2013 release) to offer a "pixelated" sole via 42 independent rubber pods that are equipped to take on a rugged terrain as the hexagonal shape is said to deflect debris on the trail. The same is used for Vivobarefoot's Evo II, the geometric pattern offers an ultra-thin, puncture-resistant surface for runners seeking a barefoot experience. <!--nextpage-->
Next Level Performance Socks
Ignoring your sock game is so 2012. Actually last year was a big year for sport socks, from RGIII's inspirational designs with adidas to 2XU's compression technology bringing running socks to the next level, and with so many options (atomically-contoured, cushioned, paper-thin, sport-specific, compression, flashy or understated) we don't see this performance item slowing down any time soon. Check out our favorites from 2012.
This isn't the first time footwear brands have thought outside of the box when it comes to closure solutions. We first saw a surge of zip-up performance shoes in the form of winterized running shoes from Saucony and New Balance, so the Jordan Brand AJ XX8 came as no surprise when it rolled out a zippered upper for the basketball court. Zippers allow brands extra room to play with the exterior design and interior function of the shoe, so from a performance and aesthetic perspective Sneaker Report is ready to see more YKK prototypes on the drawing board this year.
Performance Sneakers Go To New Heights
As minimal trends continue to carve away excess material to win the race to the lightest sneaker, brands have explored the performance benefits to offering more support directly to the ankle rather than rooting the foot in a supportive frame. Taking from the ankle tape concept, Under Armour has followed up with their unconventional-looking Highlight cleats with their October release of the Micro G Charge BB and later a signature training shoe for Cam Newton, both continuing to defy traditional heights. A few months ago, UA designer Dave Dombrow explained how the compression material provides a supportive but mobile ride for athletes, solidifying the brand's unique approach to performance footwear. Tinker Hatfield's AJ XX8 made it official: as soles get lower to the ground, uppers continue to grow.
Less is More Meets Moderation
Chris McDougall's Born To Run was a best-seller over three years ago, so it's safe to say that the industry has since evolved from the ultra-minimal movement that spawned toe separation shoes for a less radical approach to running shoe anatomy. Not to say that it isn't for some, the trend still continues with moderation, effecting heel-to-toe drops, wider toe boxes, and flexible soles. The largest influence that minimal trends have had was promoting a lightweight shoe, something that is now a staple element in performance footwear. In 2013, expect your favorite models to continue to carve away excess materials but each category to stay in their respective lane, supplying a barefoot shoe to barefoot runners and stabilizer shoes for runners seeking a cushioned ride.
Chrome Finish Lines
All trends pointed to performance last year from a lifestyle perspective. This year, athletic brands will turn the tables by employing luxurious textures in footwear and gear. Check out the HydroSkin Liquid Lightning helmet that have put a chrome finish on football teams across the nation or Under Armour's mirror-like touches on the Cam Newton Trainer as trends move away from the flashbulb-employed metallics ( see Nike's Olympic Windrunner jackets and adidas' CrazyQuick "Trophy Edition") for a longer lasting head-turner.
By the end of last year, almost every major brands offers a customizable program for consumers looking to add their personal touch to their sneakers. But programs like NikeID and adidas' "Customize It" mostly allowed wearers to choose colors and materials until recently. A return to the customizable cushioning craze of the late '80s, Nike Running offered a mix-and-match system for their Free collection along with this release of the Vapor Zoom 9 with an interchangeable sole system.
Laces haven't always stuck to their conventional symmetry, just look at this creative approach from this 1980's Brooks sneaker or this precursor to the (above) Brooks Running PureConnect 2. Brooks' approach to upper construction is a welcome one, where the traditional build is yielded for a more supportive, atomically contoured fit. The support band is great for runners with high arches and the asymmetrical lacing system decreases irration on the top of the foot. Rethinking the traditional fit of shoes is innovation in practice, though growing pains may result in some models that are less eye-candy but more comfortable.
The activity monitering technology already available via miadidas and Nike+ will eventually spread to Under Armour and other major brands, but maybe not as soon as 2013. This year will bring more sport options though, as Babolat unleashes the world's first smart racket and Nike continues to tailor their "gamer" perspective from training, basketball, running, and soccer for every athlete regardless of sport.