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Top 10 Biggest Sneaker Flops Of 2022

Every year we see brands employ new strategies like reviving older silhouettes, linking with specific collaborators, or banking on the introduction of a new silhouette to gain traction, however, many times these plans fall short of the expectations set forth. After careful discussion, the team here at Sole Retriever came up with 10 of the biggest sneaker flops of 2022 and writers Nicholas Vlahos, Steve Jaconetta, and Adam Cheung will break down each one below. Our definition of a "flop" is as follow, "a sneaker, model, specific release, or strategy by a brand that either lost its hype, sat on shelves, went on sale, or backfired on the brand itself."

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1. Air Jordan 2 Collabs

A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 2 Retro
A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 2 Retro

Jordan Brand’s continued retro of the original 14 sneakers worn by Michael Jordan during his NBA days has been one of the most successful series of releases in the sneaker game, however, there has always been a black sheep in the Air Jordan family - the Air Jordan 2. On top of the fact that MJ barely wore the sneaker on the court as he was injured in his second season, the model never really hit with the general public and at one point in time, the mold from which the sneaker is crafted was rumored to be destroyed. Still, every few years we see a handful of releases but 2022 saw a slew of collaborations come to fruition with heavy hitters like Union LA, Nina Chanel Abney, and A Ma Maniere providing the public with their version of the AJ 2. In total, we saw 8 collaborators release 11 different Air Jordan 2 colorways (some in high- and low-top fashion). Of these, the A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 2 is the only version that saw some success with the public while retailers like Two18, Titan, and Shelflife have struggled to sell out. No disrespect to the aforementioned labels, the model itself has just never been able to find a place in the rotation or collection of the average sneakerhead even if the storytelling, colorway, and materials are top-notch.

- Nicholas Vlahos

2. Union x Nike Cortez Collabs

Union LA x Nike Cortez Collection
Union LA x Nike Cortez Collection

One of the best collaborators for The Swoosh, LA-based retailer Union found lightning in a bottle with their Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 4 collabs in years past, however, the label finally jumped over to Nike Sportswear in 2022 with a four-pack of Nike Cortez colorways that had some decent hype leading up to the release. Split between two men’s and two women’s pairs, the release is still widely available even six-plus months after its initial drop - even being offered to free for select customers who make purchases on Union’s website. The silhouette's long history and cultural relevance to LA made sense for this collaboration to take place, however, a year full of high heat releases made this match made in heaven fall short with consumers.

- Nicholas Vlahos

3. Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Heritage”

Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG Heritage
Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG Heritage

2021 saw the release of the Travis Scott x Fragment Design x Air Jordan 1 High, a take on the iconic model that utilized colorblocking seen on an original sample for the silhouette back in 1985 - using white leather across the majority of the upper. While the weight that the Cactus Jack and Fragment names carry has made this one of the most expensive sneakers on the secondary market (as does its ultra-limited nature), Jordan Brand took a very similar design and swapped the royal blue shade for varsity red on the Air Jordan 1 High “Heritage” in 2022. The unorthodox colorblocking and staggered release led to this colorway not seeing much buzz, however, once the sneaker went on sale via Nike it did begin to sell out. This particular colorway has also been popular with sneaker customizers due to the large white portions being a blank canvas for limitless creative expression (and an easy way to create “Bred” or “Chicago” AJ 1s).

- Nicholas Vlahos

4. adidas Adilette 22

adidas Adilette 22
adidas Adilette 22

As an innovator in the Slide world, adidas’ Adilette line has been the go-to choice for many soccer players, athletes, and the average consumer for decades now. To discuss their latest innovation in this line, the adidas Adilette 22, we of course have to touch on the Yeezy Slide. During the early portions of 2022, Ye (FKA Kanye West) took to social media to discuss what he claimed was adidas “blatantly copying” the Yeezy Slide design with this modern-day take on the decades-old Adilette Slide. Due to this controversy, the silhouette’s original colorways began to sell out quickly and actually garnered a decent amount of sales volume on marketplaces like StockX, however, the pairs now sit on shelves. Not to say the design itself isn’t forward-thinking or innovative, but consumers eventually realized the comfort was not up to par with other popular slide models on the market.

- Nicholas Vlahos

5. adidas adiFOM Q

adidas adiFOM Q
adidas adiFOM Q

The adiFOM Q could have been a massive success. Directly inspired by 2001’s adidas Quake, the Q took the retro silhouette and completely reworked it from the ground up. While it was originally a critically-acclaimed running shoe, the new rendition headed into an entirely new direction that took many sneakerheads totally by surprise. Gone was the traditional mesh and suede construction, and in its place was a sneaker-clog hybrid that was very obviously influenced by Kanye West’s Foam Runner. In fact, just like the aforementioned Adilette 22, Ye very publicly called it out as a ripoff of his design. Featuring a sculpted foam shell and a neoprene bootie, if the German sportswear brand didn’t say anything we would never have guessed that this was related to the Quake in any way, shape, or form. And that’s one of the main reasons why we would consider this a flop. The Quake was an absolute classic for many, and for it to be revamped in this fashion is a bit controversial, to say the least. While hype surrounding the model shot up in the very beginning thanks to colorways like the “White” and “Core Black,” the adiFOM Q is now sitting on shelves in all colorways, and judging by the pairs that are still set to drop, this isn't going to change anytime soon.

- Adam Cheung

6. NOCTA x Nike Collab

Nike x Nocta Campaign
Nike x Nocta Campaign

Drake went all-out with his NOCTA x Nike collaboration this year. Kicking it all off with the Hot Step Air Terra, when it was first revealed earlier this year, sneakerheads were totally smitten. Seemingly inspired by classics of the past but with a contemporary twist, the silhouette, as well as the rest of the apparel line, proved extremely popular in the UK, falling perfectly in line with the ever-popular “roadman” aesthetic that was sweeping the nation. With that said, hype fell drastically after the “White” and “Black” colorways, and though it seemed like the NOCTA x Nike Air Force 1 Low “Certified Lover Boy” could bring it all back, unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Originally meant to release alongside the 6 God’s Certified Lover Boy studio album at the end of 2021, the Forces were met with continuous delays rumored to be related to the midsole’s heart pattern. When the AF1 did eventually release, we were already knee-deep into Honestly, Nevermind.

- Adam Cheung

7. CLOT x Nike Collabs

CLOT x Nike Dunk High Flux
CLOT x Nike Dunk High Flux

Edison Chen and Kevin Poon’s CLOT label has been responsible for some of the hottest Swoosh collaborations in history, especially in the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1 departments. With that said, the Hong Kong-based streetwear brand has been a little hit-or-miss over the past twelve months. When rumors of the Dunk Flux first surfaced at the start of 2022, we have to admit that we were super pumped, especially following the release of the CLOT x sacai x Nike LDWaffle just weeks prior. But we were a little let down by the final product. The same can certainly be said about the Air Jordan 5 Low as well. While it was packed with a ton of details throughout, we’re not entirely sure these were executed in the best way possible.

- Adam Cheung

8. Nike LeBron 9 Low "LeBronold Palmer"

Nike LeBron 9 Low LeBronold Palmer
Nike LeBron 9 Low LeBronold Palmer

Once a coveted and expensive player exclusive, the Nike LeBron 9 LeBronold Palmer no longer holds its hype. Released at retail for the first time in May 2022, ten years after the PE was created, the once elusive and rare sneaker was widely available at many retailers, from chain stores to boutiques, to mom-and-pop shops. Due to this, the sneaker sat on shelves for quite some time, even getting a deep discount on nike.com. While many were looking forward to its release, the number of pairs available soured things and left people waiting to catch a pair on sale. If you went after these purely for resale value, the money isn’t there. Maybe if you hold onto them for a bit.

- Steve Jaconetta

9. DJ Khaled x Air Jordan 5 Retro Collabs

DJ Khaled x Air Jordan 5
DJ Khaled x Air Jordan 5

After being a part of Jordan Brand and getting blessed with exclusives, DJ Khaled finally got his chance to drop a collab at retail in November 2022. First teased in various colorways, only two would make it to the public. While both pairs are somewhat “limited,” the sneakers did not sell out instantly, like many would have predicted. In fact, their resale value isn’t even high, with people actually able to score these for retail or close to it, if they look around. If you want a pair to rock, now’s the time to snag a pair. If you’re looking to sell, in the words of Khaled, “keep going,” these are far from the “We The Best” moniker.

- Steve Jaconetta

10. Ambush x Nike Air Adjust Force Collabs

AMBUSH x Nike Air Adjust Force
AMBUSH x Nike Air Adjust Force

AMBUSH began teasing the return of a 90s classic, the Nike Air Adjust Force in late 2021. While this sneaker was never a popular one, it is still regarded as one of the better sneaker releases of its era. Some were excited to see them come back after such a long hiatus, while most of the new generation of sneakerheads don’t really care much. Due to the combination of that, as well as being teased for almost a year, when the AMBUSH x Nike Air Adjust Force collab finally released, it was mediocre. The first two colorways were available well after launch day, at various retailers. Same with the second two. Still, those who wanted a pair got them, even at the steep $210 price tag. But those who were looking to flip, these have yet to garner any resale value.

- Steve Jaconetta


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