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Top Of The Kicks

For me, 2014 brought a lot of crazy times with it. And throughout all the craziness it was hard for any one thing to remain the same. So many changes to my life but not to this one trend. Sportswear remained a prevalent trend in fashion throughout 2014. With much of menswear focusing on a fresher, more leisure-oriented approach, our trainer collection has become as important as our brogue and boot rotation. I certainly didn't think I would be adding Nike and New Balance trainers to mine...

This resulted in an unprecedented number of new sneaker releases, collaborations and limited edition styles over the last twelve months, meaning there’s more choice than ever when it comes to picking your perfect pair. So, in a year when three Nike designers defected to adidas, Puma hired Rihanna as their Creative Director and Nike successfully collaborated with the likes of Riccardo Tisci and Supreme, lets take a look at the best trainers of 2014…

Way back in January, adidas set out a marker of intent with the re-release of their iconic Stan Smith. Celebrated for its clean lines and minimal design, the archetypical tennis shoe was soon seen everywhere. Its popularity was consolidated further with the release of several collaboration editions, which saw the likes of Pharrell, American Dad!, Dover Street Market and most recently The Hundreds all put their own spin on the iconic silhouette. Adidas’ own Consortium label also pushed out a couple of highly desirable versions in reptile and ostrich leather. The Stan is arguably the definitive clean white pump, offering both value for money and plenty of versatility to suit a myriad of styles.

Old school-style trainers may be big, but that’s not to say there’s a dearth of more modern designs. Another milestone in adidas’ stellar year was the release of the game-changing ZX Flux – particularly the Photo Print pack, which saw a number of bold, digital graphic prints transferred onto the surface of the trainer. Building on the success of the Photo Print pack, adidas moved the goalposts again with the release of the miZX FLUX app, which allows you to transfer your own photographs or prints onto a custom pair of ZX Flux trainers.

The final member of this list’s adidas triumvirate, the Tubular was a late 2014 release not dissimilar to the hugely popular Y3 Qasa. The trainer’s tube-shaped sole, lace holder, remarkably tall tongue and neoprene upper combine to form a truly distinctive style that’s proved itself a global success. Adidas’ Consortium offshoot has already remixed the silhouette with some snakeskin-inspired variations while the metallic New Year’s pack was the second limited edition in as many months since the Tubular’s release. Expect to see plenty more takes on this unique trainer in 2015.

Adidas weren’t the only brand resurrecting old school models this year, as American sportswear aficionados Nike re-released the divisive Huarache. Arguably one of Nike designer Tinker Hatfield’s most inventive creations, the Huarache features an armour-like body over an exposed neoprene sock and takes inspiration from the Native American sandal. Limited edition colour ways, including the Triple Black, Platinum and Love/Hate Pack, were met by insatiable desire on the part of trainer enthusiasts, while the OG Scream Green delivered a heavy hit of nostalgia which won many back around to this opinion splitting sneaker.

With the revival of all things running shoe related, Japanese brand Asics has enjoyed something of a renaissance. Arguably reaping the most benefits of our current cultural infatuation with activewear is Asics’ Gel Lyte III, while the Gel Lyte V follows closely in second place. A slim, heavily stylised runner, the Gel Lyte III is regularly re-imagined, with renowned sneaker designer and Kith NYC owner Ronnie Fieg’s version and Asics’ own Christmas edition Snowman release coming out on top this year.

The Puma Disc Blaze, despite being one of the brand’s archived styles, had a hugely important 2014 – the last year has in many ways been its breakout. Not one for inviting huge fanfare and instant sell-outs previously, the Disc Blaze has seen a serious surge in popularity of late, owing to some particularly well-executed collaborations. The likes of singer-songwriter Solange Knowles, illustrator Sophia Chang and the peerless Ronnie Fieg have all been given free rein over this heritage silhouette, and the results have propelled it beyond its usual niche audience. The Disc Blaze’s versatility has been pushed to the max over the course of the year with a staggering number of fabric, colour and print variations being released in 2014. With the New Year’s Eve reflective pack already released and Rihanna recently appointed Creative Director at Puma, the Disc Blaze could soar to new heights in 2015.

Since the marked rise in popularity of the retro runner, it’s been Boston brand New Balance that’s benefited the most. A formerly ailing label best known for being favoured by Steve Jobs, New Balance has sky rocketed from industry joke to the epitome of streetwear-inspired style. 2014 was particularly good for the brand’s 998 model, which proved itself a worthy competitor to the prevalent 596 and 420 silhouettes – largely aided by the success of an ongoing collaboration with American Prep specialists, J. Crew. The Independence Day New Balance x J.Crew 998 sold out in a number of hours, putting the once maligned model right back on the map. While it’s got a huge amount of catching up to do, this elongated, chunkier trainer is not just back in the race but has earned its placed on the podium and in my wardrobe.

The volume of trainer releases – whether limited edition colour ways or exclusive collaborations – has been noticeably higher than ever this year. Given the sheer enormity of choice when it comes to sneakers, I chose to leave out some of the more obvious heavy-hitters and worthy high-end releases here, to deliver the edit of what I truly feel is the cream of the crop. Because lets face it, there are far to many credible trainers to talk about and if I talk about anymore then I will want to buy more.