Hype, resale value, and visibility on social media inevitably come into play when thinking about the biggest sneakers of the year—and rightfully so. These elements typically compound to elevate interest in a shoe, keeping it in the hearts, minds, and wallets of the sneaker community. That's not to say those sneakers aren't deserving. Marketing plays into our perceptions, but a great sneaker is a great sneaker—just because a popular ice cream brand collaborates on one of the hottest silhouettes of the moment doesn't mean it didn't earn the praise it garnered. What it didn't do, however, was bring much new to the table.
The point of this list is to celebrate sneakers that stood out in 2020 for offering something more, like innovative performance technology, advanced manufacturing techniques, or at the very least, a fresh take on a vintage aesthetic. It's important to recognize that great new designs are being created even if retro models still reign supreme in the sneaker world.
These might not have been the most popular shoes of the year, but deserve praise for being the best new sneakers of 2020. —Zac Dubasik