What are the best sneakers of 2022? How do you even determine such a thing? Why are certain shoes that were all over the place this past year missing from this list? Like, where are Salehe Bembury’s ubiquitous Crocs? Why does any of this even matter? We’re glad you asked.
We’re not gonna spoil the answers to that first question—you’ll have to scroll down for that—but generally speaking, the best sneakers of this past year were the ones that did something interesting in their design, that captured the public’s attention, that told some story through their release beyond just being a hot colorway.
These lists are determined by Complex’s team of sneaker minds getting together and arguing for a good couple of days. We try to balance being prescriptive and descriptive: we want shoes that reflect the taste of our audience but we also need to guide that taste a little bit and tell people which sneakers are good. Hopefully you’re here because you trust us on that. These are not the sneakers that sold the most, or the sneakers that were reasonably good and made you feel good because you could actually buy them. Some of these shoes you probably had no chance at buying. The shoes we choose are meant to reflect which brands did the best work, which sneakers will be remembered and coveted years later, and which were most impactful.
Which brings us to the next point—if a shoe was big but not sufficiently interesting, it’s not going to have a spot on this list. So while a shoe like the white and black “Panda” Nike Dunk Low continues to take over the world, it’s too milquetoast to have earned a spot here. Yes, it’s a huge shoe, but it’s an entry-level shoe for people who are really into sneakers. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s also not doing anything exciting. Same goes for the JJJJound sneaker collabs, which are tasteful but feel plain to the point of trolling at this point.
We also try to keep pretty strict about keeping the list to actual sneakers. We’ve bent this rule in the past, allowing the Yeezy Foam Runner on, but that felt more sneakery on account of it being from an actual sneaker brand than, say, the Crocs Pollex Clog by Salehe Bembury. That was a huge model and an important one this year, but doesn’t feel sufficiently like a sneaker.
So why is this exercise at all important? Our hope is that it will serve as a document of reference, a snapshot for posterity that depicts what was happening in sneakers in 2022.