It’s that time of year again: the season of lists — the making of them and, of course, checking them twice. The perfect time for us to make our own list and this particular one is all about sneakers. No doubt, they’ll be among many people’s “most wanted” gifts for Christmas; for others, it’s a no-brainer, unspoken request. And, if you’ve ever heard the superstition that it’s bad luck to gift a pair of shoes, consider our guide — the seven best sneakers for holiday gifting — the all-clear to break all the rules and be a sneaker-wielding gift-giver that’ll make even Santa jealous.
Here are our top picks for sneaker gifting this season:
1 | Nike Air Force 1 Low ‘Christmas’
The design of these Air Force 1s was inspired by the holiday season, making the ‘Christmas’ an ideal holiday gift. The Nike Air Force 1 Low ‘Christmas’ looks like it was styled for Santa Claus himself with Varsity Red suede accents and a “Silver Bells”-esque metallic grid pattern on its leather upper. The Air Force 1 is an OG of the sneakerhead world. Originally released in 1982, it draws its name from the aircraft reserved for the president of the United States. Nike designer Bruce Kilgore was responsible for crafting this sneaker, the first basketball shoe by the brand to feature the revolutionary Nike Air technology.
2 | Nike Off-White Dunk Low ‘University Red’
‘Tis the season for Virgil Abloh, the CEO of Milan-based fashion house Off-White, who collaborated with the sneaker giant on the Nike Off-White Dunk Low ‘University Red.’ This shoe blurs the line between sneakerhead and skate culture while also paying tribute to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The original Dunk was the centerpiece of Nike’s College Colors program designed to take advantage of the surge in basketball popularity by giving fans shoes that showcased their favorite team’s colors. Seven colleges were represented in the first release, including UNLV, Arizona, Iowa, Georgia, Syracuse, Georgetown and Kentucky. Abloh re-envisioned the shoe by adding his signature details: bright orange Flywire lacing, translucent zip tie, exposed foam on the tongue’s edge and Off-White x Nike text branding.
3 | Nike Dunk SB Low Grateful Dead
They’re famous for singing “Touch of Grey,” but this Grateful Dead collaboration is about bold color. The limited-edition collection, released in July 2020, features the group’s iconic dancing bears on the tongue positioned over Nike’s signature Swoosh. The design draws inspiration from the rock band’s “History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One (Bear’s Choice)” album cover from the early 1970s. The sneaker itself is a blend of skater culture and the band’s eclectic style with a furry upper in yellow, jagged blue Swooshes, a hidden stash pocket on the tongue and the “Steal Your Face” skull on the inside pocket. David Lemieux, the Grateful Dead’s archivist and legacy manager, said the band’s infamous bear logo is a tribute to the group’s audio engineer Owsley “Bear” Stanley, and the contributions he made to the group who landed at No. 57 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”
4 | Nike Air Jordan 1 High Dior
They may be surprised to find these luxury kicks under the tree, but they won’t be unfamiliar with the name. The Nike Air Jordan 1 High Dior was first unveiled at the Dior Men’s Pre-Fall runway show in Miami in 2020, signaling a new era in the luxury sneaker space. Dior Men’s artistic director Kim Jones followed in the footsteps of Christian Dior by partnering with Nike: “I chose to collaborate with Jordan Brand because Christian Dior collaborated with the best American brands of his era,” Jones said. The sneaker marked the first time a Parisian fashion house collaborated with the iconic Air Jordan brand. This shoe pairs the iconic Dior grey color palette, a favorite of Christian Dior himself, with jacquard Swooshes, Dior’s signature Oblique monogram fabric and the flight-inspired Wings logo representative of Michael Jordan himself. With a limited initial run of 13,000 shoes (8,500 Lows and 4,700 Highs) and five million people who signed up to buy, these are hard to find, but Sotheby’s has you covered.
5 | Onitsuka Tiger Corsair Limited
The Onitsuka Tiger Corsair Limited truly was limited when it was released in 2013 — to only 800 pairs. Modeled after the first 1969 Corsair, the 2013 update paid homage to its history, using the original colorway and adding splashes of gold embroidery on the tongues and heels. Before Nike was more formally established and named in 1971, co-founders Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight’s company was known as Blue Ribbon Sports. They imported and distributed Onitsuka Tiger running shoes. Early on, Bill Bowerman wrote to Onitsuka detailing his innovative ideas to improve their shoes and the two companies collaborated together on design and development. Onitsuka Tiger models were the inspiration for some of Nike’s early models. They have been making shoes since 1949.
6 | Nike Air Acronym Presto Mid ‘Dynamic Yellow’
When Errolson Hugh’s style-and-tech-focused brand ACRONYM was founded in 1994, it was intended to be a design agency that focused on innovation and versatility in functional apparel. It made perfect sense for Hugh to partner with Nike to combine the label’s unconventional styling with the world of sneakers. Hugh put his own splash on the Nike Air Presto, turning the already-popular model into a true statement piece that blended futuristic style with functionality. ACRONYM eschewed its preference for the monochromatic ever so slightly here, delivering a final product that pairs grey, black and white with a ‘dynamic’ bright yellow. Thus, the Nike Air Acronym Presto Mid Dynamic Yellow was born. The cage and toe overlay bear a splatter print with a yellow mid-top that delivers the perfect pop of color. Functional sidewall zippers and pull cords and a branded ACRONYM tag complete the look.