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The Yeezy 500 was a substantial departure from Kanye West’s previous Yeezy designs. On a technological level, the groundbreaking modern innovations of Boost and Primeknit were swapped out for features that had first been used in the halcyon days of the 90s. This in turn paved an aesthetic path away from the simplicity of the Yeezy 350 and towards a more maximalist, retro shoe.

After showcasing the shoe at a number of events spanning several months, West eventually dropped it in 2018, right when the popularity of chunky sneaker designs was at its peak. 

The Yeezy 500’s retro look comes from the 90s technology held within it, while more technical elements such as impact absorption and energy rebound are handled by the adiPRENE+ cushioning. However, the bulbous appearance of the midsole unit comes from the “Feet You Wear” tech in the outsole, which was first seen in 1999 when it appeared on the KB8 III, Kobe Bryant’s signature trainer. Frampton Ellis designed these outsoles with the idea that replicating the natural contours of the human foot would provide better lateral stability and therefore limit injury. 

Along the perimeter of the midsole runs a rubber strip to help protect the upper, whose design was based on the style of a military boot. Natural, hard-wearing materials such as suede and leather combine with highly porous mesh through the mid-quarter and tongue. This helps to forge a shoe with a high level of rigidity and strength with a lightweight, nimble feel. Reflectivity is another important 90s aesthetic nuance included on the 500. It appears through the thick rings encircling the lace eyelets.

The original April 2018 “Blush” colourway in beige, brown and off-white was given the affectionate nickname “Desert Rat” because of its curvaceous midsole, while the sand-coloured military upper makes it look particularly at home in dry, desert environments. This colourway is still a valued collector’s item among Yeezy fans to this day. 

When the 500 landed, it sought to prove that Yeezy was an exciting, risk-taking and innovative brand. By adopting this curvaceous, chunky aesthetic using late 90s technology, Kanye West couldn’t have been more on trend with the release of the Yeezy 500 in 2018, further solidifying his legacy as a top designer.

Rank the Yeezy 500

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