When we look back in the evolution of sneakers, 2016 could stand out as something of an inflection point. The year saw major strides in innovation, with Nike finally making good on the promise of power-lacing sneakers with the introduction of the HyperAdapt 1.0. Meanwhile, adidas continued to forge new ground in the areas of sustainability and applied materials. Recycled ocean plastics were front and center through a collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, while the use of Biosteel fiber presented a natural material that was biodegradable, strong and lightweight. In 2016, we could finally announce that the future had arrived.
adidas gave us a glimpse into the future with a prototype runner that used an upper made with Biosteel fiber, an extremely strong, lightweight and completely biodegradable material called Biosteel, developed by the German biotech company AMSilk.
Earlier in the year, adidas unveiled Futurecraft Tailored Fibre, which demonstrated how machinery can specifically tailor the structure of a running shoe, manipulating and constructing the actual fibres that form the shape around the foot.
adidas and Parley for the Oceans teamed up on a project that highlighted sustainability and the health of our oceans. The joint venture took the form of a groundbreaking running shoe that employed numerous teal threads running throughout the upper, all made with two kinds of recycled plastic: PET from water bottles and nylon gill nets taken from the coast of Africa.
Later in the year, adidas and Parley would join forces to again to introduce the Ultra Boost Uncaged Parley, incorporating a knitted upper built with 95 percent ocean plastic and 5 percent recycled polyester.
The shoe was joined by football jerseys for Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, each made with Parley Ocean Plastic, up-cycled marine plastic debris and a water-based, environmentally friendly print.
Nike made sure that golfers could express their love for classic sneakers even as they played through 18 holes. The Nike Air Zoom 90 IT, built for the golf course with Integrated Traction outsoles, featured the distinctive design notes and color palette lifted from the iconic Air Max 90 "Infrared," with apparel and gear to match.
In 2016, Nike revisited one of its early game-changing collaborations: the atmos x Nike Air Max 1 "Safari" from 2002. Featuring a color scheme inspired by the original Nike Safari from 1987, the 2016 edition added a translucent outsole and hairy suede at the toe box.
adidas ensured that the Yeezy takeover wouldn't be confined to the street. The Three Stripes unveiled performance variants of the Yeezy 350 and 750, specifically tailored to the gridiron. Originally thought to be player exclusives for the likes of NFL pros Von Miller and DeAndre Hopkins, the Yeezy 350 and 750 cleats would go on to see a retail launch.
In launching its latest lifestyle silhouette, New Balance looked to the past for inspiration. Specifically, the asymmetrical toe from the 1300, collar strap design from the 574 and 576, and a revised 998 midsole. A "Luxe" design theme, incorporating premium leathers, distinguished the inaugural release.
Supported by Nike's flagship Lunarlon technology, the all new LunarCharge borrows elements from past Nike models, including the neoprene upper of the Air Flow, the bootie construction from the Air Presto and laser-siped cushioned outsole from the LunarEpic. The overall silhouette recalls the Air Current, while the distinctive eyestay gives the nod to the classic Air Max 90.
adidas kept Boost fanatics happy in 2016 with an infusion of new silhouettes, including the Pure Boost Raw. Built with tricot stretch mesh and synthetic suede trim, the shoe's sleek upper sported elastic laces for a snug fit, all mounted on the all important Boost midsole.
2016 saw Kobe Bryant walk away from the game he loves, and Nike sent off the hoops icon in grand fashion: the "Fade to Black" collection rounded up each of the Mamba's signature models, as well as the Huarache 2k4 and original Hyperdunk from 2008.
Jordan Brand also paid tribute to Kobe with an amazing gift: a full set of the Air Jordan line (I through XXX) finished in brilliant white, along with the Air Jordan III and Air Jordan VIII -- models that Bryant wore during the 2002-03 season -- in Lakers purple and gold. A matching black set would be auctioned off via eBay For Charity.
The future arrived in 2016. The Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 -- featuring Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing, or EARL for short -- delivered on the promise of a self-lacing future, as first envisioned in the Back to the Future II. Developed by Tinker Hatfield and Tiffany Beers, the HyperAdapt is billed as the first step in the future of adaptive performance, offering a tailored-to-the-moment custom fit for athletes on the fly.
Alongside the HyperAdapt 1.0, Nike's Innovation event at the start of 2016 highlighted the coming of Air VaporMax, a shoe that pays off the full promise of Air. It achieves the feat with a groundbreaking VaporMax Air unit that's able to function as a standalone outsole, with no need for a secondary rubber layer. The benefit of the holistic VaporMax Air unit -- aside from the dynamic looks -- is more flexibility and spring.
2016 saw Converse updating some of its most iconic sneakers, and it began with the All Star Modern, representing a fusion of the brand's sports heritage with contemporary design. Inspired by the 1920 All Star and offered in both Hi and Ox silhouettes, the All Star Modern sported a Nike Hyperfuse upper atop a full-length Phylon outsole, along with neoprene at the split tongue and lining.
Introducing the silhouette to the world was initially tasked to the design troika of HTM -- Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker -- who were working on their first non-Nike footwear design. The All Star Modern HTM featured a premium goat leather upper, debossed All Star ankle patch and an HTM logo on the heel pull.
The in-line release of the Converse All Star Modern followed the HTM release, featuring a series of introductory colorways that included Black, Action Red, Lucid Green, Soar Blue and White styles.
Preceding the retail release was a special launch event held in NYC, which offered a first close-up look at the new silhouette, as well as the shoe's lineage.