Top 15 Sneakers of 2006

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It was a good year, to rephrase Ice Cube, for those who like sneakers more than they aught. New technology was unveiled, legacies continued and revered favorites were resurrected. Indeed, the past couple years have seen more technological innovation than the previous five combined. Since ’05, adidas launched their “computer” shoes, and the Swooshsters brought out Total Air, as well as their new “Free” running technology. While the impact of computers in shoes and Free technology can’t be gauged quite yet, it’s fair to say that the 360 Air system is a keeper, regardless of how you feel the shoes look.

Trends? Jordan keeps looming his considerable shadow over both the sneaker game and the NBA. In a bold move to establish themselves as the dominant player in the NBA—coupled with buying exclusive rights to all official NBA team apparel—adidas went with star power in its “It Takes Five” commercials, starring Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Gilbert Arenas, Chauncey Billups, and Trace McGrady. Too bad they didn’t include an idea.

The sneaker game, both the mass-market version and the cool-guy edition, flourish with greedy abandon. Special and “limited” editions are now branching out from the boutique world onto the shelves of Foot Lockers everywhere. During the World Cup, every Champs and FL was offering a myriad selection of World Cup sneaker momentos, from AF1s to Air Max 95s. Footballers and basketball players both got special editions Dunks and AF1s with even more garish “design” elements, colorways, and all-around bad ideas. And speaking of the Swoosh, their hold on the game also tightens, to the exasperation of some. But it’s all about the shoes, so let’s break it down. For an alternate take, Ace Six of Goodfoot, one of the few sneaker stores in Toronto, graciously offered his point of view. The rule: shoes had to be released in the calendar year of 2006 — at least that colorway — in order to qualify.

Top Five New Releases

5. Nike Free 5.0 V2
Another technological innovation by Nike. Look, not everyone is a runner, but these shoes are immediately eye-catching in stores. Plus, they weigh as much as a strand of hair, maybe a lil’ more. Impressive design, from the split sole-element, to the new-school flat laces and materials — cool-ass suede and nylon mesh.

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Available at: Sneakerhead

4. Lebron IV
Sure we’re been a bit negative in the Top 5, but it’s just to illustrate that though these are the Best of 2006, flaws still prevail. No shoe illustrates this more than the LBJ IV. The first colorway released (red/black) is weak, and the shoe itself is enormous and weighs two tons. Supposedly the Nike Free technology makes shit lighter, but the LBJ IV is heavier than any other show we’ve ever held. The shoe is cool-looking, though, no doubt. Great Foamposite technology, but the strap seemed uncessary.. It’s like Nike went to the design buffet and ordered three main courses when there was a two-course limit. Add in a full-length carbon fiber shank—also the first of its kind—and this shoe is both heavy on the technology and just plain heavy. Of course, when you weigh 250 lb and stand at 6’8″, this shoe probably feels tinfoil-heavy.

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Available at: Sneakerhead

3. Lebron III All-Star Edition
We only wish we could include the O.G. colorway, but it was released in 2005. First, some words about the LBJ III: butter, butter and butter. We like these because while there is a lot going on, the LBJ IIIs still manage to retain simplicity by making all the details subtle. Also, it is a technical shoe at heart, and it works well. Playing basketball in ‘em is a dream — they are snug but comfortable, the Zoom Max air delivers a smooth but rugged ride, and they look game-tight. The only drawback is that the Sphere technology that comprises the inner bootie doesn’t really keep allow your foot to breath. Shit is hot and sweaty. These are also nice because they don’t have a strap. Not that the strap wasn’t cool in the LBJ II, but some design elements needed be constantly included. The All-Star edition is also a nice colorway — white and red, with gold trim and detailing. In all honesty, it is the second-best LBJ III (discounting limited editions like “Superman” and “China”). The gold detailing (card suites in an elaborate patterns, with the words “LeBron James”) is bright without being obnoxious, something Nike didn’t master, as evidenced by the garish “Brazil” Dunks and the playing-card inspired NFLer Dunks.

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Available at: Pick Your Shoes

2. Air Max 360 Runner
By far the biggest technological innovation in a minute by the only true constant innovators. The only real issue here is that the shoe looks kind of ugly. Sure, the technology was obviously the focus of this shoe, but the upper unfortunately reflects that. The body of the 360 looks so technical, without any particularly intriguing design features, or even a striped-down minimalism. Instead, the 360 is busy as a bitch, with all kinds of lines and shit going everywhere. Special editions didn’t necessarily help — after all, if the inherent design is weak, cool patterns and colorways can only do so much.

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Available at: Pick Your Shoes

1. Air Jordan XXI Italian Red Suede
This joint was magical from the commercials down. Remember the clips of kids of all ages and origins pulling original MJ moves, such as the go-for-the-dunk-switch-to-the-left-hand joint in the ’91 Finals, or the Shot over Craig Elho? Aside from the whole shoe being red suede, this joint is great for the details: the stitched, quilted interior; the mesh “grill” surrounding the toe box; the unique laces; and the black suede pouch for the extra air pods. Oh yeah — this is also the first Nike or Jordan to feature removable air pods, so you can switch from Air Max to Zoom technology for the heel. Why wasn’t this a bigger shoe worldwide?

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Available at: Pick Your Shoes

Top Five Retro’s

5. Air Force III
This joint looks as rugged as a Tim, so we’re not sure why they’ve been so slept on. For years after they’d re-issued AF1s and then AF2s, we were holding our breath waiting for the AFIII. Finally, after also giving up, they drop a kick that would do adequately if someone wanted an example of an “old skool” basketball shoe. This is a sneaker a rocker would love: super-high cut, as shit-kicking in appearance as the constructionist Tim or highest Doc Marten. Also looking beautiful are those reinforced eyelets, and that big-ass FORCE logo with the basketball underneath. Crazy colorways for the re-issues—many of which were questionable—including a newly made low-cut edition, but this joint still gets mad love for being rugged and ruff from jump back in the day.

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Available at: Sneakerhead

4. Trainer Max ’94
A classic we still can’t believe they had the balls to re-issue! When this was released, it was at the cusp of the “round-lace” revolution — the CB Max2 and Jordan IX came out at this time — when shoes starting ditching flats for rounds, and eventually ovals. As a side note, the Nike Free joints seem to be bringing back flats — albeit much thinner stylized flats. The Trainer ’94 was also cool because its air bubble was bright green, and as large as they came at the time. And the body of the shoe itself was wild, with its zig-zagging “tiger stripe” look. Tiger Stripe may sound bad, in a Zubaz kind of way, but that’s not really what we mean. Anyhow, all shoes contributing to massive change always get a nod.

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Available at: Sneakerhead

3. Air Pippen II
I’m obviously the only person who ever liked this joint, but I don’t care — Format gave me the column, and that means ultimate power over this list. Technology (Zoom air), clean look, minimal design, what’s not to like? This shoe featured a hard “jewel” around the mid-sole, which apparently offered stability and whatnot. I say the jewel just looks sick — a protruding bumper of some material that feels like an exceptionally durable plastic. I copped the O.G. red/white colorway in ’97, and copped another pair in 2006. But one issue — I bought the same size as my O.G. in the re-issue (11.5), and the re-issue fits mad tighter! So when I bought a second pair in white/royal blue, I copped 12s. Not only is the design simple in the Pippen II, it’s also unified. The jewel matches with the chromed “P” eyelets, and the carbon fiber shank in the middle of the sole. Even the Pippen logo on the tongue is smooth and minimal. This shoe is sleek and tailor-made for the kind of basketball ninja work Pipp was putting in, back in the day. Bonus: in 2006, one of the colorways was a bison brown/khaki tan — perfect to bust out for the office job, but gully enough for your own ego.

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Available at: Sneakerhead

2. Air Jordan V Fire Red
Another amazing classic that they brought back — left us with a tear dropping my eye. And ditto ’bout the Jumpman shit. Curiously, the Military Blue JV (a retro+ colorway) came with much nicer leather, though — that full-grained shit, versus the smooth and cheaper shit on the Fire Reds. Still, this is an iconic edition of the Jordan V. It just looks so right, that gleaming white leather matched with red and black details, including the beautiful stitched “23” at the lower corner. We still remember the O.G. editions of these shits — people were losing their minds about ‘em. Urban Myth at the time (’90ish): some kid was accidentally mailed Mike’s pair of JVs with the “23” at the heel, and so the Swoosh put the “23” joints into production because of this supposed gaffe. Who knows if that’s true, and who cares. Now we all get to cop one of the truly memorable official colorways of the Jordan V.

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Available at: Sneakerhead

1. Air Jordan IV Military Blue
Wow, is this shoe butter – we just wish they’d stop being so stubborn about the Jumpman at the back and shit. But it terms of making a re-issue as authentic as possible otherwise, mission accomplished. They didn’t forget the suede grey toe-cap, and they went back to plastic “wings” after going to leather wings on JIVs for so long. Everything about this re-issue was on-point: the colors were right and the materials didn’t feel cheap. Contrast that with the Fire Red Mars JIV, which some of us bought but quickly soured on. The materials on the Fire Red IVs felt cheap as shit — the leather was one grade up from plastic, it seemed. And also, as a stickler, why put the lil Mars eyes/cap silkscreen on the corner? The Fire Reds can obviously stand on they own without Spike backing ‘em up.

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Available at: Sneakerhead

Top Five Limited Editions

5. Reebok the Question Undefeated
Format throw A.I. a bone with this garish collaboration, which is nowhere near as nice as the JIV Undefeated Collabo, which happened in ’05, unfortunately. We’re guessing Undefeated was on some, “let’s choose the colorway based on the colors that fluorescent highlighters come in.” So you get neon purples, yellows and greens, along with some black speckling, as well as Iverson’s name and draft year (’96). Still, we give props to them for keeping A.I. relevant, boutique-wise. One of the Top 50 Greatest Players Ever deserves as much — even if he did sign with Reebok.

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Available at: Flight Club NY

4. Air Jordan Defining Moments Package (XI and VI)
Though the 6s don’t get that much love, you must admit this thing is pretty sick. The double-box package itself was ridiculous, featuring photos of MJ’s two “first” title runs of his dual Three-peats. Also a nice touch was adding gold to the colorways of the DMP Jordans, such as the Jumpman at the heel of the XI.

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Available at: Flight Club NY

3. Vans Slip-ons Brown/Caramel Checkered Suede, inner lined with sheepskin
Unfortunately, these only dropped in Japan. Combine the flyness and comfort of the classic Spicoli Vans with butter suede in the illy colorway, then add a sheepskin liner for winter warmth (yeah, like it gets cold in Japan). That’s why the Japanese are so stylish – they’re all about superfluous but cool-ass shit like sheepskin-lined Vans. Though Vans currently offers a sheepskin-lined slip-on, it sadly lacks the checkerboard detailing. Just combine the liner joint with the checkerboard slip-on in your mind and you’ll get the idea.

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Unavailable Online

2. Air Stab
These aren’t that limited, but you can’t get ‘em at normal sneaker stores, so that’s why they here. Some of the colorways were straight lucky charming fools — magically delicious indeed. Really, though: some color combo’s had more in common with cereal boxes, from purple/yellow/green to Mowab-inspired colorways and everything in between. The Stab itself is a technical running shoe with “Stab” written near the heel, and three triangles of color extending around the air-pocket window. These were some truly flavorful shit for the ’06 — and despite rampant availability, they were surprisingly not exactly murdered on the streets.

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Available at: Sneakerhead

1. Lebron IV Graffiti
This shit was incredible and made us mad that Nike makes cool-ass shit like this limited for some coolness/buzz/bullshit-creating reason, but whatever. Basically, they took the LBJ IV and covered the mid-sole with famous NYC graf artists’ tags. The result is a crazy masterpiece.

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Available at: Sneakerhead

Ace of Goodfoot’s selections

Top Five New releases
1. Lebron IV
2. Lebron 20.5.5 USA team edition
3. Air Zoom Kobe Olympic
4. Air Zoom Moire+
5. Air Zoom Regime

Top Five Retro’s
1. Air Jordan V Grape
2. Air Jordan IV Military Blue
3. Air Jordan IV Fire Red
4. Air Jordan V Fire Red
5. Air Force Max Black/Grey

Top Five Limited Editions
1. Air Force 180 Huarache Pack(Air Revaderchi colourway)
2. Air Max 97 Powerwall (Blue Ribbon Sports Series)
3. Air Max 95 Stash
4. Air Max 1 Air-U-Breathe Ben Drury
5. WTaps Vans Chukka

Rick Kang

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6 comments

  1. what happen to the FLIMBY CENTENARY PACK, SOLEBOX PURPLE DEVILS, HANON NORTHERN SOLE and more recently CROOKEDTONGUES CONFEDERATION OF VILLAINY.

  2. Frank:

    “ur” grammar is full of shit — leave the literacy game alone

    But seriously…. Let’s see y’all’s Top Sneakers of 2006…. I promise not to dis your selections…

  3. slobbythegreat says:

    The pippen 2’s were tight, werent many places down here in australia u could get em though, the 3’s were shit but the 4’s….damn they were sleeker than charlize theron’s stomach and lines like thandie newtons ass!…the red and white colourway is to die for…i cant find 13’s anywhere…pippen IV’s were tight inthe white but the black look ridiculous..as u can see by my little message..pippen is the man..BEST BULL EVA!!! (nike could have given him a better logo tho..anyone got pics of just his logo let me know…slobbythegreat@hotmail.com)

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