Although the year presented a seemingly endless amount of challenges, it did produce several of the best sneaker collaborations in recent memory.
Arguably the year’s best projects came from New Balance and Nike, which consistently delivered hit after hit. And brands including Reebok, Converse and Saucony created must-have looks with the likes of Joe Freshgoods, Lapstone & Hammer, Nice Kicks and others.
In no order of ranking, check out some of the top sneaker collaborations that dropped in 2020.
Joe Freshgoods for New Balance and Converse
Two of the year’s more compelling collaborations were created by Joe Freshgoods.
The Chicago native started the year with the “No Emotions Are Emotions” collection with New Balance, released during NBA All-Star Weekend in February. The designer born Joe Robinson, through his Don’t Be Mad imprint, reimagined the brand’s classic Made 992 silhouette and court-ready OMN1S basketball shoe.
And this month, he returned with a project with Converse that the heritage athletic company described as inspired by a soulful moment in Chicago in 1976. After teasing just the shoebox in November, creating a buzz for the collaboration, he delivered compelling iterations of the Pro Leather and the Chuck 70 in December.
JJJJound for Reebok and New Balance
In September, Montreal-based JJJJound delivered one of the year’s most sought-after collaborations with its Reebok Classic Nylon. However, its Reebok collab wasn’t the only shoe that sneakerheads were eager to pick up. A month earlier, a pair of JJJJound x New Balance 992 colorways — green and gray — were released and quickly sold out.
Dior x Air Jordan 1
One of the more polarizing collaborations of 2020, panned by sneaker diehards for being “boring” but loved by celebs and the high fashion crowd, the original Dior x Air Jordan 1 release was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. It eventually was released abroad in April and stateside in May.
Ronnie Fieg for Asics “The Palette”
On Black Friday, Kith leader Ronnie Fieg delivered his largest footwear collection to date on Black Friday, a project with Asics on the Gel-Lyte 3 dubbed “The Palette.” For the retro running silhouette’s 30th anniversary, Fieg created 30 looks that were limited to 300 pairs each using the top 30 colors Kith has ever used across footwear and apparel.
Aimé Leon Dore for New Balance
Aimé Leon Dore delivered some of New Balance’s most beloved collabs in 2020. The New York-based brand offered new takes on the Boston-based running brand’s 827 silhouette as well as its 550 retro basketball shoe.
Concepts x Nike SB Dunk High “Turdunken”
Concepts has built a reputation as expert storyteller, and the theme of its Nike SB Dunk High “Turdunken” collab — inspired by turducken, a dish consisting of a chicken stuffed into a duck, which is then stuffed into a turkey — may be its best and most fun yet. The sneaker dropped in November.
Lapstone & Hammer x Saucony “Two Rivers” Courageous Moc
This Lapstone & Hammer collab with Saucony was revealed when COVID-19 started to take over the U.S., which caused it in some ways to be overshadowed. However, the two Courageous Moc looks — Bone White and Black Sand — were well-received by sneakerheads and remains one of the year’s best projects.
Salehe Bembury x New Balance 2002R
FN 2020 Designer of the Year Salehe Bembury delivered one of the most beloved and discussed collabs of the year with New Balance, a reimagining of the 2002R sneaker inspired by the designer’s appreciation of the outdoors — specifically the color palette of Antelope Canyon. The sneaker dropped on Oct. 23.
And although it hasn’t been released yet, Bembury is sure to make the top collabs of 2021 list with his highly-anticipated two-shoe lineup with Anta.
Travis Scott x Nike SB Dunk Low
The rap megastar’s take on the iconic Nike SB Dunk Low sneaker arrived in February, and almost a full year after its release people are still looking to pick them up, with pairs selling for as much as $2,800 on the resale market in December.
Ben & Jerry’s x Nike SB Dunk Low “Chunky Dunky”
The highly-anticipated Ben & Jerry’s x Nike SB Dunk Low collaboration arrived in May, and as expected, it sold out quickly. The “Chunky Monkey” ice cream-inspired look was executed with a blue and green upper that was paired with premium by cow-like faux fur overlays, tie-dye liner and yellow Swoosh branding.
Nice Kicks x Reebok Question “Bubba Chuck”
Nike Kicks and Reebok — with the design expertise of Frank Cooke — used NBA icon Allen Iverson’s love of fishing to create the Question “Bubba Chuck,” which arrived in July.
Casablanca x New Balance 327
After revealing the collab during Paris Fashion Week — and then seeing coronavirus-related delays — Casablanca’s take on the New Balance 327, a 1970s runner-inspired silhouette, arrived in April. In November, the high-end label would use the silhouette again for another collab, which appeased both sneakerheads and the fashion-focused alike.
Packer x New Balance M992PK1
The New Jersey-based retailer delivered the M992PK1 with New Balance, which Packer said was made to celebrate the Boston-based brand’s Made in USA craftsmanship and “all those who get their hands dirty to make the world a more beautiful place.” The collab dropped in September.
Stüssy for Nike
Stüssy was one of the busier Nike collaborators in 2020. This year, some of the hits included new-look Air Force 1 Lows, Benassi slides and the Air Zoom Spiridon Cage 2, which have all resonated with diehard sneaker fans.
Nike x Sacai VaporWaffle
One of the more eye-catching collabs of 2020 was the Sacai x Nike VaporWaffle, a look that combined old and new innovations by fusing two running silhouettes: the classic Pegasus running shoe from 1983 and the record-breaking Vaporfly.
New Balance x Paperboy Paris 801
Releasing via the Greenhouse app in February was the collaboration between New Balance and Paperboy Paris on the 801 silhouette. The Paris-based “restaurant-meets-streetwear” imprint created three iterations of the New Balance 801 that are inspired by signature menu items: Tuna Tataki Sandwich, Ginger Lemonade and Coffee Latte.