The inevitable is going to happen over the next couple months, unless global warming finally sets in for good. It's going to get blisteringly cold, it's going to snow, and there's a chance you'll step in a puddle made up of equal parts slush, dirty water, and ice. It's going to suck, and I hope you have the right footwear on when it occurs — something waterproof, ankle-high, and not a bastardized version of your favorite sneaker.
Sneakerboots, the name for a well-known silhouette done-up in a beefier, water-resistant version, are more prevalent now than ever. Commercial sneaker culture is at an all-time high. A greater number of people have a vested interest of what's on their feet than ever. It's created an opportunity for brands to play off their back catalogs and prepare their sought-after retro models into awkward-looking, winter-proofed versions of themselves, and it needs to stop.
It's not that these so-called sneakerboots are just ugly or a non-O.G. version of the silhouettes they take on, they're just unnecessary.
Runners are now offered in more high-cut versions than current performance basketball sneakers, and there's simply no need for it. If it's going to snow or rain outside, throw on a pair of real boots or grab a can of waterproofer. I fell in love with Air Max 1s, New Balance 574s, Air Max 90s, and adidas' ZX series because they were all innovative running sneakers, not because I thought I could wear them to fend off the elements during winter. They were classics for the activity they were made for, and that didn't include combating icy sidewalks.
It's not that these so-called sneakerboots are just ugly or a non-O.G. version of the silhouettes they take on, they're just unnecessary. I lamented yesterday that there are 10, or even more, awesome sneakers that can be worn when the weather is less than stellar and that's totally true. There are plenty of options of otherwise "regular" sneakers with Scotchgard-treated uppers or Primaloft liners for those who feel the need to not go the boot route when it rains or snows.
The issue is bigger than just choosing to wear a sneakerboot or not, though. Obviously, brands don't have a large focus on making outdoor footwear, it's a fraction of their business. But when they attempt to make something weird, funky, and totally inline with their design ethos that's not just a mash-up of something they've done in the past it can click and produce great results. Just take a look at the Nike ACG line: it was Nike's conscious decision to take risks and move away from the running, basketball, and court sneakers that it had become synonymous with and try something new. We need more Mowabbs, Revaderchis, and Superdomes. We need more of the strange.
There are still some of these models infiltrating the market, it just feels like brands have found a safety net of knowing that a certain model already sells three seasons out of the year — so why not make sure it also sells in the winter?
Technically speaking, it doesn't seem like a running sneaker makes the most sense to wear during inhospitable conditions. If people are complaining about the shape on regular retros, what do they think when a silhouette has to be stretched to accommodate for thicker socks or design cues from yesteryear are slapped all over an all-leather boot to appeal to nostalgia?
I know, these sneakerboots are made to give brands quick sales and build a greater appreciation around the legacy of their previously released models. But when a hybrid does more hurt than good, it's a slippery slope. If a core audience can't look at a design without making their eyeballs bleed, who's really profiting in the situation?
Brands are capable of making new products, and they should push this even more. Take a trip to any retailer sometime after September, and you'll see all-black and suede boots from sneaker brands. Maybe you'll see a selection of sneakerboots, too, depending on where you go. If the brands focused this energy into making winter footwear a new and fresh portion of their business, they could, potentially, have people lining up for these products as well.
Nike has released models such as the LunarTerra Arktos, Lunar Incognito, and Lunar Dome, and that's exactly what we need more of. They're legitimate boots, or outdoor models, that show Nike's vision for pushing further, like Mark Parker preaches and lives by. If you look at what Nike has been able to do with Flyknit, it works.
Remember the Fragment versions of the Air Magma and Zoom Meriwether? They were both chased down by legitimate sneakerheads and caused much more buzz than taking a Foamposite silhouette, which is practically already a boot, and making it even more of a boot. And they succeeded because of their original concepts.
As for consumers, if you love sneakers, you don't always have to wear them. It's OK to own a pair of Timberlands, a pair of Red Wings, or something with a Gore-Tex lining. You should go to your favorite sneaker brand when they offer an interesting piece of footwear that's fundamental in your life (or just looks cool).
Just wear your running, basketball, or whatever other categorical sneakers when it's time to put them on, and lace up real boots when it's that time of the year. You'll not only expand your perception of sneakers, you'll have a stronger rotation. And that's what it's all about, right?
Matt Welty is an editorial assistant at Complex and he wears Bean Boots when it snows. You can follow him on Twitter here.