Over the last few years, one of the UK’s biggest trends has hit US soil moving full steam ahead. Retro running sneakers from brands like Asics, New Balance, Nike, and Saucony have taken off in popularity, becoming a go-to choice for athletes and sneakerheads alike. Many of these lightweight, low-top models deliver just the right blend of cushioned comfort and smooth style. These days, you’re more likely to see LeBron or Yeezus spending their downtime in a pair of classic runners than the retro hoops shoes of years past.
One of the biggest factors behind retro running sneakers’ surge in popularity is their highly coveted boutique collaborations. While the in-line general release styles are desired in their own right, these special editions are sought after for their high quality materials and unique color schemes. Last year, fans scrambled to get their hands on releases like the New Balance 998 “C-Note” by Concepts and the Asics Gel Lyte III “East Coast Project” pack by famed designer Ronnie Fieg.
What if this creative approach was applied to more modern performance offerings? Although New Balance has carved a niche with their limited marathon-inspired releases and many bands are known to get festive with themed holiday packs, there’s yet to be a real focus on modern technologies and designs. As performance enthusiasts, we can’t help but salivate at the thought of models like the adidas Spring Blade or UA SpeedForm Apollo getting the collab treatment.
Kick off your Grid 9000s and open up your imagination, these are 10 Running Shoes That Deserve Boutique Collaborations.
Riley Jones is a freelance writer from Charlottesville, VA and a contributor to Sneaker Report. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things pop culture, he can be found on Twitter @rchrstphr.
No. 10 – Reebok ZQuick
Proposed collaborator: Frank the Butcher/BAU
Earlier this year, Frank the Butcher’s BAU (Business As Usual) flipped the script on the Reebok DMX Run 10 by adding durable Cordura fabric. This rugged twist gave the ‘90s runner a completely new feel, and we’d like to see him work similar magic on the Reebok ZQuick. The ZQuick is one of the most exciting runners we’ve seen from Reebok in awhile, and it could appeal to a whole new crowd with the right design.
No. 9 – Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3
Proposed collaborator: mita
Japanese boutique mita sneakers has been killing it for years, working with brands like Reebok, adidas, Asics, New Balance, and Nike. But one thing you might not know about them is that mita used to exclusively stock Japanse-made shoes. For a brand that has seemingly done it all, we’d like to see them return to their roots, so to speak, and team up with Mizuno for a new take on their Wave Prophecy 3. The model’s already got a futuristic look with plenty of high performance tech, all it needs is a little flavor.
No. 8 – UA Speedform Apollo
Proposed collaborator: size?
We like the pairing of the UA Speedform Apollo and UK retailer size? for two reasons. First, as mentioned in the intro, UK collectors and boutiques are the pioneers of the retro runner movement, but one brand they’ve yet to claim is Under Armour. Secondly, the Speedform Apollo is the perfect way to introduce UA’s running approach to our friends across the pond. With a futuristic design rooted in form-fitting comfort, there’s no doubt that collab champs size? would do this one justice.
No. 7 – Asics Gel-Kayano 20
Proposed collaborator: Ronnie Fieg/Kith
This one’s a no-brainer: if there’s anyone that can make performance runners pop off with the retro crowd, it’s Ronnie Fieg of Kith. Fieg has been making retro Asics pop in ways we could’ve never imagined since his days at David Z on Broadway. With a laundry list of instant sell-out retros under his belt, the coolest thing he could do now would be to do the polar opposite and work with one of the brand’s newest runners. There’s no better place to start than the Gel-Kayano 20, which would look amazing in Fieg-approved Salmon Toe, Miami, and Mint Leaf schemes. Better yet, something new entirely.
No. 6 – Puma Faas 500 v3
Proposed collaborator: Sneaker Freaker
At first glance, many colorways of the Puma Faas 500 v3 might already look like special editions. With bold, attention-grabbing colors and a unique construction, we think the Faas 500 v3 could be a hit if it was in the right hands. Last year, Australia’s Sneaker Freaker magazine got busy with their rendition of the Puma Blaze of Glory. Each release was a hit with collectors, and the Faas 500 v3 could be just one color or material swap away from their next success.
No. 5 – Brooks Ghost 6
Proposed collaborator: Bodega
Boston’s Bodega is one of the coolest sneaker shops around. If the true-to-their-name, hidden storefront wasn’t enough to convince you, just know that Bodega was making waves with their Nike and Saucony drops before a lot of stores even knew what a collaboration was. Now, we’d like to see them step out of their comfort zone a little bit, and paying tribute to Boston with a Harbor-themed Brooks Ghost 6 could be just the right fit.
No. 4 – New Balance Fresh Foam 980
Proposed collaborator: Concepts
The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 is the kind of shoe that might not resonate with retro collectors today, but in about 10 years, they’ll be jumping through hoops trying to track down leftover stock. Plenty of running sneakers use foam-based midsoles, but the award-winning Fresh Foam is something that has to be felt on foot to be believed. Instead of making fans kick themselves for sleeping years down the line, we’d tape Boston-based Concepts to add a hypebeast flair to the Fresh Foam 980. They’ve previously gotten busy on the New Balance 999 and 998 models, and their creative approach would be welcome on this next level runner.
No. 3 – Saucony Kinvara 5
Proposed collaborator: Extra Butter NYC
Saucony’s lifestyle models have taken off lately thanks to pairings with stores like End Clothing and Extra Butter NYC. The recent space-inspired collection from Extra Butter was especially well-received, but we’d like to see them explore even more uncharted territory in the form of the Kinvara 5. From its sleek shape to its flowing lines, this speedy runner has plenty of aesthetic appeal, all it needs is a little boost to send it into orbit.
No. 2 – Nike Free Flyknit 4.0
Proposed collaborator: A.P.C.
For the most part, Nike’s Flyknit collection has been all about bold, in-your-face colorways that can be spotted from a mile away. Meanwhile, French clothing brand A.P.C. is known for their subtle yet luxurious takes on classic Swoosh offerings such as the Air Max 1. We’d like to see what would happen if these two crossed paths; paring down some of the Free Flyknit 4.0’s flair and applying a more muted tone. The Flyknit collection is already wildly popular with runners and collectors alike, but an A.P.C. version would cement it as the casual king.
No. 1 – adidas Springblade Razor
Proposed collaborator: UNDFTD
Without a doubt, the performance runner we’d most like to see given the collab treatment is the Springblade Razor. Its distinctive design has already generated a ton of buzz, but surprisingly we’ve yet to see a specially designed version. We’d tap California’s Undefeated to get busy on the Springblade Razor, and here’s why. Although they’re perhaps best known for their Air Jordan and Nike collaborations, Undfeated has been doing some killer work with the Three Stripes as of late. They recently brought Japan’s Neighborhood on board for a rendition of the futuristic Micropacer model, but we’d like to see them apply their craft to one of adidas’ current innovations. Just imagine a gradient or multicolored Springblade design, the possibilities are endless.