— Kanye West speaking to Forbes Magazine, 2019
Kanye West is an artist with a complicated legacy. In recent years, every loyal fan of Mr. West has found themselves, at one point or another, in the awkward position of having to act as a spokesperson to explain the megastar’s antics and justify why he said a certain thing or thinks a certain way. It’s a weird position to be in. And while there are legitimate arguments to be made for why an artist’s work should be separated from their bad behavior, there are solid counter-arguments too, about how supporting and endorsing an artist helps to support and endorse said antics.
Part of the reason Kanye West won’t just “go away” is because from the time Ye dropped his debut single “Through the Wire” in 2003 until the release of his best album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010, he could do no wrong. In that time, Kanye established himself as the artist of a generation and defined the sound of modern hip-hop in such a way that his influence is still felt today. But just like many of the once-in-a-generation artists who preceded him, Ye’s trajectory in the decade following his career apex has only managed to muddy his legacy.
For all his flaws, Kanye has also done the nearly impossible — becoming iconic in two fields via his Yeezy brand. His successful pivot from an artist at the top of his game to a household sneaker icon gives him more in common with Michael Jordan than any of his music-making contemporaries (save for Travis Scott who is building on the Yeezy legacy with his own Cactus Jack label). A lifelong sneakerhead who used to get in trouble for sketching sneakers during class in middle school, Kanye built Yeezy with Air Jordan as an obvious influence. He even met with key Air Jordan architect Tinker Hatfield before launching the label in 2009 with Nike.
Due to creative differences and Nike’s unwillingness to pay royalties, Ye left Nike and brought the label to its new home at Adidas in 2013, where it has since become one of the most successful sneaker brands of all time. And while Kanye West might not be the greatest artist in hip-hop anymore, he continues to solidify himself as one of the biggest names in sneakers with design and colorway innovations that jumpstart industry-wide trends.
In celebration of the brand, we’re listing off all the best sneakers ever to don the name “Yeezy.” That means you won’t find any Kanye Louis Vuitton or BAPE collaborations here. You won’t even find every Yeezy silhouette ever made. There isn’t a single Yeezy slide or a Foam Runner, and you won’t see every colorway of the Yeezy 700, 500 or BOOST 350 v2 (there are just too many). Instead, we put the focus on design to create a list of the 15 best sneakers — whether silhouettes or colorways — to carry the name “Yeezy,” in chronological order.
Check our picks out below!
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Nike Air Yeezy 1 Blink, 2009
We aren’t going to focus as heavily on the Air Yeezy silhouettes as we are on something like the Adidas Yeezy BOOST 350 v2, but Kanye’s early collaboration with Nike still deserves mention as it was where the Yeezy brand first took shape. Developed between 2007 and 2009 by Kanye West and Nike Creative Director Mark Smith, the Air Yeezy pulled inspiration from the bold and bulky design of the Nike Air Tech Challenge 2 sneaker, with details borrowed from the Air Jordan III and IV.
This shoe isn’t a far cry from some of the Yeezy boots Kanye would go on to make with Adidas but truly feels like a design from another era. A sneaker designed by the old Kanye. Every release after the Air Yeezy would see Kanye’s designs get more and more minimalistic. Compare the Nike Air Yeezy to the Adidas Yeezy Slide and you’ll never believe the same guy was behind both pairs.
Repping the sneaker on our list is the sneaker’s best colorway, the Black/Pink iteration often dubbed the “Blink.” In an interview with GQ in 2020, Kanye signaled that he was open to Nike doing a rerelease of the sneaker, so fingers crossed.
Nike Air Yeezy 2 Red October, 2014
One of the benefits of doing this list chronologically rather than ranked was being able to avoid the headache of having to find a place for the Air Yeezy 2 Red October. Yeezy die-hards still consider this the holy grail of the brand, but by modern sensibilities, I don’t even think it belongs in the top five. The lasting popularity of the Air Yeezy 2 Red Octobers, released in 2014 when Ye already had a new home at Adidas, is a reminder that Nike could’ve solidified themselves as the greatest shoe brand of all time, the home of both Jordan Brand and Yeezy — but they blew it by not thinking as creatively about contracts as they do about design.
Created with Nathan VanHook, the Air Yeezy 2 is truly a transitional design between what Ye did with Nike and what he’d come to do with Adidas. It’s slimmed down and more minimalistic than the Air Yeezy 1, ditching the bulky padding in the original’s upper, but more intricate than anything from the Adidas Yeezy line — sporting ridged animal-print inspired detailing and strong design lines. This makes it one of the more unique designs in the Yeezy lineage, and while we’d like to spend more time exploring some of the other great colorways, no iteration could ever represent the shoe as strongly as the Red Octobers.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 750 Triple Black, 2015
The final colorway of the Yeezy Boost 750, the Triple Black, is the sneaker’s best. The 750 is Kanye’s debut sneaker with Adidas and you can still see some of the remnants of the Air Yeezy in its high top design and mid-foot strap. Although the silhouette has since been abandoned, the 750 really set the precedent for the stripped-down design that future Adidas Yeezys would take.
The 750 featured a full suede upper atop a simple BOOST midsole with a full-length zip heel and has only dropped in four colorways, beginning with the Chocolate, followed by the Glow in the Dark, and the Light Brown/Carbon White, and Triple Black.
We wouldn’t be opposed to a 750 v2, but since it hasn’t happened yet we think it’s safe to say Kanye has moved on from this particular look.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 350 Turtle Dove, 2015
While the 750 carried some resemblance to Nike’s Air Yeezy line, the Yeezy Boost 350 was truly something new from both Adidas and Kanye, and really solidified the look of the brand. The sneaker’s debut colorway, the Turtle Dove, remains one of the finest iterations of the sneaker, which featured a jagged striped Primeknit upper, a distinct white TPU sole wrap, a white and heel tab with red stitching. It also holds the distinction of being Ye’s first low top sneaker.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 350 Pirate Black, 2016
It was a hard choice between the Pirate Black, Moonrock, and the Oxford tan colorways that followed the Turtle Dove, but we had to go with this all-black iteration of the 350 as one of the two best in silhouette’s lineage. While the Moonrock and Oxford Tan signaled the type of muted earth-toned colorways that have since defined the Yeezy brand, the Pirate Black just looks so damn cool.
A fan favorite, this colorway still fetches prices nearing $1000 on aftermarket sites like StockX.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 350 v2 Beluga, 2016
We’re skipping right past the military boot-inspired Yeezy 950 and going straight to the 350 v2. Quite possibly the most popular silhouette in the entire Yeezy line, the 350 v2 kicked off with a gunmetal grey with a red-orange stripe that read “SPLY -350.”
The first 350 v2, known as the “Beluga” differed from the original 350 by slimming down the design considerably, ditching the heel tab, and adding the Virgil Abloh-esque product model number along the stripe. In 2017, Ye would go on to release a Beluga 2.0 that restored the heel tab and replaced the red stripe with red lettering. We prefer the OG.
Adidas YEEZY BOOST 350 v2 Zebra, 2017
We’re going to keep seeing the 350 v2 on this list, not because it’s the most popular, but because there are so many damn colorways and subtly different variations. The black and white Zebra colorway set the design precedent followed by the Beluga 2.0, with a restored matching heel tab, red lettering in lieu of a stripe, and a translucent BOOST midsole.
This shoe builds on the design that the 350 Turtle Dove made famous, but holds up so much stronger.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 700 Wave Runner, 2017
Still considered one of the greatest pairs of Yeezys ever, the 700 Wave Runners were a divisive sneaker at the time of their release. In 2017, so-called “ugly shoes” that your dad would wear were all the rage, and the Wave Runner was one of the ugliest and most daddy. By 2020 standards, the Wave Runner is far from ugly (which goes to show how popular ugly sneakers have gotten), with a mixed leather and suede upper, a chunky running inspired sole, and a beautiful mix of grey and black with distinct teal and orange accents.
The 700 never had a better colorway than the Wave Runner and it puzzles us as to why all the later iterations of the 700 dropped the four color design.
Adidas Yeezy 500 Desert Rat Blush, 2018
Like a lot of sneakers to bear the Yeezy name, the release of the 500 in its original Blush colorway was divisive. Hell, to this day this sneaker is still pretty divisive, with a weird alien-like design that still looks pretty futuristic two years after its initial release. It would begin a trend in Yeezy design that Ye still hasn’t gotten over — an obsession with challenging the traditional shapes that naturally come to mind when we think about sneakers.
The 500 laid the groundwork for the unconventional shapes of the 380, 500 High, and 700 v3.
Adidas Yeezy 500 Salt, 2018
The 500’s best colorway (though the Stone is also up there) the Salt doesn’t differ in any way aside from color from the original Blush. Like the original, the upper is composed of a mix of premium suede and mesh and features an entirely monochromatic design. While the Yeezy brand is often criticized for its muted colors, the Salt is something special, with a calming blue undertone that causes the sneakers to linger in your memory.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 700 v2 Static, 2018
Unlike the Yeezy BOOST 350 v2, the second version of the 700 silhouette did little to improve upon the design that preceded it. In an effort to clean up the design, the 700 v2 removed the 700’s more elaborate paneling and added subtle reflective detailing with a premium leather upper. It’s a little sad that the 700 didn’t have a stronger follow-up and even sadder that the best version of the sneaker to date was its debut Static colorway.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 700 Inertia, 2019
Released in 2019, a year after the introduction of the 700 v2, Yeezy went back to the 700 to drop a few more iterations and we couldn’t be happier about that. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Wave Runner, the 700 Inertia is the silhouette’s second-best colorway. The Inertia features light reflective details, a grey upper on a chunky grey midsole with peach accents that almost look as cool as the 700’s orange counterparts. Almost.
Here is to hoping the next decade brings a colorway that can truly rival the Wave Runner.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 380 Alien, 2019
One of the weirder Yeezy silhouettes, the 380 Alien almost didn’t make the list. However, as far as Alien-inspired out-there designs, this is one of Ye’s best. The 380 was originally teased as the third version of the 350 silhouette, and we’re kind of glad it ended up being its own offshoot. While the 380 is interesting, to say we love it would be an outright lie.
To date, the silhouette has dropped in its debut Alien colorway, as well as Mist reflective and non-reflective iterations, and a Blue Oat colorway that landed this year. It borrows several design traits of the 350, like the sock-shoe construction, Primeknit upper, and a lateral window for an added splash of color via your sock choice.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 350 v2 Cloud White 2019
Released in both a reflective and non-reflective iteration, the Yeezy BOOST 350 v2 in Cloud White is proof that the 350 is still pumping out top tier colorways four years into its life. A triple white colorway, the Cloud White is the greatest modern 350 v2 on the market. Now that the sneaker has decided to drop the heel tab permanently and ditch the “350 SPLY” branding, it’s finally hitting its stride and feels like the best colorway for the silhouette is still yet to come.
Adidas Yeezy BOOST 700 v3 Azael, 2019
Kanye West went from designing sneakers that looked like the landscape of Calabasas to designing sneakers that resembled the topography of Calabasas…or maybe Mars. The third version of the 700 silhouette — and a marked improvement on the v2 — still doesn’t improve upon the original 700 design, but at least it does its own thing.
Alien-like, the Azael features an outer RPU shell that gives the sneaker a futuristic quality and adds structure and durability, as well as reflective detailing, an EVA midsole, and an upper composed of monofilament mesh. It feels like the logical progression from the original 700 and we’re excited to see what Ye does with the design moving forward.
To date, the Azael is the only colorway of the 700 v3, but a second colorway, Azareth, is due for release this summer.