The shoe game is in an era that can best be encapsulated by two main trends —one in the design and one in the consumption.  

Consumption refers to the resale business that pits the average shopper against shark resellers who employ bots to stock their inventory. Resellers then sell back at a ridiculous rate to desperate consumers who they cheated out of the opportunity to cop at retail price.

The design part of it can best be described as the “collab era,” where ubiquitous brands such as Nike and Adidas collaborate with fashion designers, clothing brands and other creatives to put their own touch on classic silhouettes. 

For this list, when I refer to “Chicago sneaker collabs,” I mean that the designer or brand collaborating with the shoe company is from Chicago or located in Chicago. And I’m only talking about sneakers. There won’t be any boots or sandals, or anything like that on this list — just gym shoes. 

Finally, I keep away from athlete-branded sneakers such as LeBron’s Nikes, D Rose’s Adidas, and D Wade’s Li-Ning’s because those aren’t as much of a creative collaboration between athlete and brand, as they are solely a brand-designed shoe tailored to the play of said athlete. 

So, without further ado, here is a list of the best Chicago sneaker collabs of the 21st century.

Saint Alfred x Gel Lyte 3 'Lake Shore' // Sweetsoles
10. St. Alfred x Asics Gel Lyte iii "Lake Shore"

Release Date: June 15, 2013

This Asics collab was St. Alfred owner Joe Schaefer’s love letter to the lake. The blues and tans invoke the shoreline and beaches of the Lake Shore. The Asics Gel Lyte iii is one of my favorite silhouettes featured on this list, and the “Lake Shore” colorway by St. Alfred is one of the best I’ve seen them in.

LDRS x Adidas Forum hi // Modern Notoriety
9. LDRS x Adidas Forum hi

Release Date: May 21, 2021

The Adidas Forum was first introduced in 1984 as a hooping shoe, but like many of the most iconic silhouettes, its appeal couldn’t be confined to the hardwood for long. LEADERS 1354, is one of Chicago’s most iconic clothing stores, and the breeding ground for Chicago creatives including this list’s only repeat offender, JoeFreshGoods of DBM. The LEADERS 1354 x Adidas Forum was unveiled in 2021 with the help of Candace Parker of the 2021 WNBA Champion Chicago Sky. You can’t go wrong with a sneaker stamped by the champ.

DBM x Converse All-Star “Just F***ing Smile” // Reddit
8. DBM x Converse All-Star “Just F***ing Smile”

Release date: November 24, 2021

Idk bout y’all, but the first time I heard about a shoe designed by streetwear icon Joe FreshGoods, it was this all-white Converse All-Star with the big smiley face on the side and the “Don’t Be Mad” slogan of the DBM brand. My memory of the time is just vivid enough to recall the special packaging — they came in milk crates — and the New York City pop-up when they were released. This collab is slightly unofficial, since it was less of a collab and more like Joe’s manifestation of a Converse collab, where he took some blanks and printed on them himself. They fly though.

Don C x Air Jordan 2 “Just Don” // Flight Club
7. Don C x Air Jordan 2 “Just Don”

Release Date: January 31, 2015

While the Jordan 2 was always sort of billed as the “luxury” retro, based on originally being crafted in Italy, this time the Jordan brand tapped Don C to elevate that luxury to another level under his sportswear brand, Just Don. The Just Don Jordan 2’s were replete with quilted leather in royal blue and, once again, constructed in Italy. The original release was highly exclusive, with a $275 price tag. Now they’re going for about $700 on the resell market. In later collaborations with the Jordan brand, Don C designed uniforms for CPS basketball teams and even created his own shoe silhouette, the Jordan Legacy 312.

Rello x Adidas Superstar “We are all superstars” // The Casual Fridays
6. Rello x Adidas Superstar “We are all superstars”

Release Date: February 8, 2020

Ahead of Chicago’s NBA All Star weekend in 2020, Adidas collaborated with the designers of one of Chicago’s most beloved streetwear destinations, Fat Tiger Workshop. The collaboration included three different versions of the classic Adidas Superstar silhouette remixed by Des Owusu of We All We Got, Vic Lloyd of Sensei Brand, and Rello’s Lost Paradise brand. Now all three are decent colorways, but Rello’s relatively subdued take on the design is easily my favorite.

Fashion Geek x Puma Style Rider “Colorful Ducks” // Flight Club
5. Fashion Geek x Puma Style Rider “Colorful Ducks”

Release Date: Oct. 16, 2020

Fashion Geek’s Puma collab on the Style Rider gets high marks from me for a couple reasons: Alonzo and the team at Fashion Geek have been Chicago streetwear icons for a minute, which made this collab kind of like watching your cousin get drafted into the league or sum; but also, with a handful of solid shoe collabs under their belt, this Style Rider — with the clean, all-white upper and the iconic Fashion Geek duck logo in its signature palette speckling the midsole — has the most attractive and interesting design.

Vic Lloyd x adidas Forum Low “Chicago Works Harder” // High Nobiety
4. Vic Lloyd x adidas Forum Low “Chicago Works Harder”

Release Date: July 3, 2021

Vic Lloyd’s Adidas Forum makes perhaps the most admirable attempt to honor Chicago out of anyone on the list. The low-top version of the classic Adidas Forum silhouette is dressed up in pastel orange, with safety yellow and city-truck blue on the straps. The lovingly named “Chicago Works Harder” Forum Low is an homage to the city’s blue-collar public workforce and Lloyd smartly chooses a relaxed, comfortable sneaker to do it in.

Nike Air Yeezy // Flight Club
3. Nike Air Yeezy

Release Date: May 4, 2009

Okay, so this one’s kind of a gimme. Ye’s Adidas brand is an absolute monster in terms of sheer sales and whatnot, but even with the giant spectacles he makes of fashion shows, and the baby Bezos bag they’ve checked; nothing has quite gripped the culture the way the Nike Air Yeezy did. For a long time, with Nike, Yeezy’s were a legit status symbol. They dropped with a price tag of $215 but that value skyrocketed into the thousands on the resell market. Now if you want a pair, you’re dropping bout $4,000 on them. Mfs wasn’t just getting them for Christmas, or for your birthday — it was damn near like entering a secret society to own a pair.

2. Ron Louis x Nike AF1

Release Date: March 2020

Celebrity stylist and Phera Brand designer Ron Louis’ best-known work, for much of his career, has been the iconic “Designer” branded clothing. (You might’ve seen one of the hoodies in Valee’s music video for the song “Miami”). That was true until he got his hands on some Fazos and some dye. Ron Louis released his first batch of dip-dyed Nike Air Force 1’s in glacier blue joints, and the yellow joints were basically gone before he could finish sharing the link to them. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Ron Louis’ AF1’s are my favorite shoe on the list. They’re a pair of the most regular shoes in the world dipped neatly in dye and they look like expensive art. This is also an unofficial collab, since Ron bought the Fazos himself and raffled them off for free.

JFG x New Balance 990v3 "Outside Clothes" // New Balance
1. JFG x New Balance 990v3 "Outside Clothes"

Release Date: Aug. 5, 2021

After more than a year of being held under some of the most strict COVID-19 restrictions in the country, (not nearly strict enough if you ask me), Chicagoans breathed a collective sigh of relief when city officials announced on June 11 that we were moving into Phase 5 of our COVID-19 recovery plan, which meant a lift on capacity limits and social distancing requirements just in time for summer. 

It was *lowkey* a reason to celebrate. West-side designer JoeFreshGoods knew exactly what to bring to that celebration; something new to step in. His second shoe collaboration with New Balance — following their 2020 NBA All-Star collab —  is the 990v3 “Outside Clothes.” It doesn’t just get the top spot for its refreshingly bright summertime color palette, and the underdog victory of flipping a pee-wee football coach shoe into something the hood could rock with, but also because of the multi-layered campaign that included a dope commercial, and a pop-up at Garfield Park. On top of that, they were retailing at $225 at the time of drop but now they’re going for upwards of $500 on the resell market. It might be a little recency bias but the 990v3 collab comes in at #1 on my list because JFG did exactly what Chicago needed: he brought the people outside.

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.