It’s official: as of today, we’re in the future. That is, at least, by the standards of popular 1980s movie trilogy, Back to The Future. In the series’ second installment, protagonist Marty McFly time travels to October 21, 2015—then just an arbitrary far-future date; now a worldwide pop culture occasion.
At that particular point in the movie, Marty discovers the Nike Air Mag—a futuristic high-top, self-lacing sneaker that would go on to inspire the imagination and irresponsible spending of sneakerheads the world over. To this day, the Mag remains a coveted artifact of sneaker culture.
So to celebrate McFly’s "arrival," we’ve lined up eight sneakers that were way ahead of their time and, like the Air Mag, gave us a glimpse into the future.
1) NIKE FOAMPOSITE ONE
Originally released: 1997
To this day, the Foamposite remains a love-it-or-hate-it sneaker. Originally debuted by Penny Hardaway in 1997, the original Foamposite One introduced Foamposite technology: a synthetic, foam-like substance that's more durable than standard materials. Foamposite also helps the shoe contour to the wearer's foot over time, for optimum fit throughout its lifespan.
At the time of its release, the world probably wasn't ready for these shoes. Many criticized them as "moon boots" at first but, over time, sneakerheads and those of the fashion set came to embrace its weird, provocative design.
2) REEBOK INSTAPUMP FURY
Originally released: 1994
Among the shoes that are leading Reebok's recent resurgence is the Instapump Fury—a sneaker that saw lot of cool collabs and solid colorways this year. But popular appreciation for the Fury's outlandish design came a couple of decades late, as the shoe was originally released in 1994.
It was the first running shoe to come equipped with Reebok's already-famous Pump technology. With a goal of creating a lightweight, fit-adaptive running shoe, Reebok's think tanks came up with a truly groundbreaking, almost aggressively unique design that was met with mixed reactions. Reebok's VP of Advanced Concepts, Paul Litchfield, was once quoted as saying, "You put the Pump Fury on the shelf, particularly at the time, and 50 people would look at it and go 'That’s the coolest thing ever!,' 50 people would look at it and go 'That is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!,' but 100 people would notice it, and that’s important."
3) ADIDAS THE KOBE TWO
Originally released: 2001
Look at that thing. It looks like a goddamn flat iron for your feet. People these days know Kobe Bryant as one of Nike's mainstay signature athletes, but few remember his time as an adidas-signed baller. The first of his signature shoes for the German brand was inspired by the Audi TT car, and this is what followed. The Kobe Two is equipped with adidas' 3D torsion technology, but it's the shoe's strange, hoof-like appearance that puts it way ahead of its time.
4) NIKE SOCK RACER
Originally released: 1986
The drive to innovate brought sneakers to a weird place in the '80s. The Sock Racer is one such example: Nike wanted to strip a running shoe down to the bare essentials. What they got was a shoe that set the foundation for Nike's Free technology and the design of sneakers for years to come. Echoes of the Sock Racer's design can be heard in the Nike Roshe Run, and the many similar shoes that followed. The Y-3 Qasa? The Yeezy Boost 350? Minimal, sock-like upper, thick, rounded rubber sole—it's an extremely popular look that typifies the sneakers of our generation, and the Sock Racer beat them all to it.
5) AIR JORDAN XV
Originally released: 1999
Legendary Air Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield's first dynasty ended with the XV—perhaps the least favorite among his run from Jordans III to XIV. It looked a bit peculiar compared to the rest of his designs, but it still did pack the same push-the-envelope innovations that Tinker was known for. The most noteworthy feature about the Air Jordan XV was its woven upper, which we now see on contemporary shoes like the Jordan Future, the Footscape Woven, and the Inneva Woven.
6) ADIDAS MICROPACER
Originally released: 1984
It doesn't get more futuristic than shoes with computers in them. The three stripes beat out all others to that. The Micropacer is the world's first sneaker equipped with a microprocessor that would measure trivial matters like calories burned and distance traveled. Primitive compared to today's smartphone/smartwatch technologies, but considering that that was 1984. This was way before Nike+ or the FuelBand.
7) APL CONCEPT ONE
Originally released: 2010
Remember when you were a little kid, and every time you were given a new pair of shoes, it felt like you could run faster and jump higher? Well, an independent company from Los Angeles called Athletic Propulsion Labs made it a reality. Back in 2010, APL released the Concept One: a shoe that, through their patented Load N' Launch technology, promises to increase its wearer's vertical leap.
It might come off as too good to be true, but APL asserted its legitimacy when the shoes were banned by the NBA for giving players an "undue competitive advantage." It might not be so unfair in the future, when all shoes are made like it.
8) RAF SIMONS ADIDAS COLLECTION
Originally released: 2013
Nobody expected the Raf Simons x adidas collaboration. These days, it isn't strange to see high fashion collaborate with streetwear brands anymore, and the bond between Raf and the three stripes was among the first to kick it off. To this day, none of the other collaborations managed to take it as far left of center. The collections were daring, definitely unconventional, and to many, even grotesque.
But you'd be able to find a pair of Raf Simons x adidas sneakers around the corner of every fashion week event since 2013. Perhaps the world isn't quite ready for these sneakers, but they've definitely made an impression. Who's to say? This might just be the look of the future of sneakers.
Image via Nicekicks.com, Extrabutterny.com, Solecollector.com, Niketalk.com, Highsnobiety.com, Theshoegame.com, Wonderlandmagazine.com