New Balance loafers, adidas bowling shoes and other oddball trainer innovations

With footwear in a transitional stage, these trainers may be the way forward

From left, Junya Watanabe x New Balance loafer; Travis Scott x Jordan 1 golf trainer; and MSCHF AC.1 Help I Broke My Foot. Photos: New Balance; Nike; MSCHF
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Where is the next big frontier in the world of casual footwear? That is the question the fashion industry is currently asking itself, as evidenced by what we just saw at Paris Fashion Week.

Over the past several years, the sneaker world has seen trends rise and fall at what feels like a faster rate than ever before.

Air Jordans, especially the original 1985 release Air Jordan 1, once again reached heights of popularity after the 2020 Netflix documentary series on famed basketball player Michael Jordan, The Last Dance, renewed public interest in the brand’s historic releases. But in 2024, after years of scarcity, the brand is seeing even some extremely limited releases hit the bargain bin.

The Jordan brand, as well as Nike, also lost their greatest champion in the world of high fashion when Virgil Abloh, Off-White founder and artistic director of Louis Vuitton, passed away in 2021 at the age of 41.

On the other hand, brands such as Japan’s Asics and the US’s New Balance, long ridiculed as “dad shoes”, have found their way into fashion weeks across the globe, thanks to some key brand partnerships, celebrity endorsements and designer collaborations.

Adidas, meanwhile, has recovered from losing Ye’s Yeezy brand by embracing its heritage, with the adidas Samba becoming an unexpected fashion staple once again over the last 18 months.

But as popularity wanes on certain styles, each brand struggles to predict what’s next. As a result, low and high fashion continue to merge and interact in ever-evolving ways, and some of the world’s biggest sportswear and sneaker brands are finding ways to innovate – and perhaps chart their way forward.

Junya Watanabe x New Balance loafer

Junya Watanabe, Japanese fashion designer and protege of Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo, has a long history with New Balance, but the 62-year-old has never produced anything as bold as this shoe.

The designer debuted his autumn/winter 2024 collection at Paris Fashion Week this month. Of all the pieces he unveiled, this was the one that got people talking the most, taking the outsole of the New Balance 1906R – a popular silhouette that also shares a sole with the 2002R and the 860v2, the latter of which is also getting an upcoming collaboration with CdG – and merging it with a loafer top.

In doing so, Watanabe creates a shoe fit for any occasion, blending two of the most fashionable pieces of the moment for the sartorially conscious man.

Adidas x Brain Dead bowling shoe

Los Angeles streetwear brand Brain Dead, itself the brainchild of designer Kyle Ng, has also created one of the most unique shoes we’ve seen so far in 2024 with the Brain Dead x adidas bowling shoe.

Created to celebrate 10 years of the brand, the shoe is unfortunately not slated to become available to the public, as it’s currently a friends-and-family exclusive.

Travis Scott x Jordan 1 golf trainer

On the face of it, a blend between an iconic basketball shoe in the Jordan 1 and the sport of golf seems unusual, but a look into the life of the man who founded the brand makes this golf shoe make sense.

An avid fan of the sport, no one is more likely to wear a Jordan golf shoe than Michael Jordan himself. What makes this one more curious is the addition of rapper Travis Scott, whose stamp on the golf shoe, which also comes with a reversed Nike Swoosh logo, has already put it into a realm far exceeding the usual reaches of links-wear.

Asics x Miyashita Chelsea boot

This collaboration with designer TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist, usually shortened to Miyashita, may be the place that Watanabe got the idea for his New Balance, as it takes the outsole of the Japanese sportswear brand’s Quantum 360 VII and marries it with a Chelsea boot top.

According to the designer, the boot, which launched under the radar in 2022, was also inspired by his admiration for The Beatles, who wore the boot back in the 1960s and turned it into quite the fashion item at the time for Beatlemaniacs.

MSCHF AC.1 Help I Broke My Foot

The brand MSCHF continues to live up to its name, as it's followed up its big red boots with a shoe that is styled like a medical accessory.

“Let’s push the envelope on what footwear is. Footwear should be anything that you wear on your feet,” says the brand’s founder, who constructed it with so-called WowComfy! Technology and a dual-airbag ankle support system.

Updated: January 25, 2024, 8:59 AM