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Unboxing Sneaker Hype

Analysis and story by Miguel Matugas
Design and development by Aditya Raju
Data and analysis by Hoang Nam Nguyen

Images from

From the earliest Jordans, to the 90s skate boom, shoe enthusiasts have formed passionate communities around big sneaker drops. Today Instagram, hypebeast and resale sites like GOAT amplify sneaker hype worldwide.

We applied Human Centred Data Science to the most searched releases of 2019 to unpick the drivers of interest and uncover the Top 50 ‘most hyped’ sneaker models and colourways.

The most striking finding: even with all the fresh competition from new designers and luxury collaborations disrupting established players, Nike remains the enduring and dominant leader.

Read on as we dig deeper into open source data to understand the reasons for Nike’s dominance. And hover over the data viz to see which models commanded the highest resale premium at the end of 2019.

Nike dominates the most hyped sneakers of 2019.

30 of the 50 most searched models are from Nike.

While the top 50 contains models from Adidas, Vans, Fila, Puma, and even luxury players Chanel and Balenciaga, Nike is on top with almost three-times as many models as the #2 brand Adidas (11 / 50).

6 of the top 10 most searched sneakers in 2019 come from Nike. A mix of refreshed Air Max models and timeless Jordan basketball-turned-lifestyle shoes. The Air Max 97, Air Force 1, Airmax 270, and Jordan 1 all fall within the top 5, with the Jordan 11 and Air Max 90 round out Nike’s entries in the top 10.

The first non-Nike shoe is the classic Vans Old Skool at #3, then follows Adidas Superstars, Ultra Boosts and Yeezy 350s produced in collaboration with Kanye West.

Translating a heritage in performance into fashion-lifestyle relevance.

Just 19 of the top models are designed for performance.

While sneakers started life as performance shoes, today’s consumers lean closer to lifestyle than functional performance - 31 of the top 50 most hyped shoes are designed for casual wear, not sports.

Nike succeeds with models that blur these boundaries. Of the top performance sneakers, 15 are functional-first basketball, training or running shoes which have become lifestyle favourites through endorsements and trendy colourways.

By blending form with function these models attract both athletes and fashion-first consumers and are widely celebrated on Instagram: #jordan1 (1.5M posts), #kyrie5 (65k posts), #lebron16 (58k posts), #kd11 (19k posts).

Refreshing the classics while easing consumers into future innovations

29 of the 50 models are ‘refreshed classics’. Originally released pre-2010, but given modern twists for 2019.

Fashion moves quickly and brands are always on the lookout for the next big thing. However, desperately following trends quickly becomes shallow and yet lack of innovation risks irrelevance. Nike’s dominance lies in its ability to leverage leverage past successes, while easing consumers into the future.

Much of Nike’s prominence comes from classic models that have been refreshed - i.e. Jordans, Nike Air Max, Nike Cortez. While doing this, the brand is also coming out with fresh designs such as the Nike Element React 55 and 87 to keep consumers excited.

Collaborations with pop culture icons drive hype and resale value

26 of the 50 most searched models are collabs.

Collaborations create relevance and drive hype. 5 of the top 10 most hyped sneakers are joint ventures with music, fashion and sports icons - Nike Air Max 97 Ricardo Tisci, Vans Old Skool with David Bowie, Adidas and Kanye’s Yeezy 350 v2 Black, and Nike x rapper Travis Scott’s Jordan 1 and Cactus Jack x Air Force 1.

Collaborations also drive resale value. The 26 collabs in the top 50 have an average resale premium of 2.6x their retail price, in comparison to non-collab designs which sell just slightly below retail at 0.99x on average.

Nike collabs enjoy the highest average resale value at 2.15x. Other brands’ collabs have lower average resale at 1.11x. Chanel x Pharrell is the exception - commanding +460% premium vs. original list price.

So what’s next for sneaker hype?

Nike is dominant, but can’t afford to rest on its laurels. Competitor brands are beginning to pull the similar levers to drive hype - performance lifestyle crossovers, reinventing classics and high profile collaborations.

Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted has announced increased investment in lifestyle-performance crossovers through the Yeezy partnership with rapper (and ex-Nike collaborator) Kanye West, and has recently launched the new version of its hero performance shoe, the Ultra Boost.

Skate brand Vans has run a few successful capsule collections in collaboration Supreme, Fear of God, and even Harry Potter, while Italian sportswear brand FILA is fuelling their comeback with a fresh take on its classic Disruptor silhouette.

What will Nike bring to the table next?


  1. Images for Top 50 Sneakers -
  2. Sneaker Vector Icon - Freepik from



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