In 2008, Kanye West wore high-top black Nike Air Yeezy 1 prototypes on stage at the Grammy Awards, where he performed “Stronger” and “Hey Mama.” Now, those same sneakers have sold for $1.8 million to RARES, a sneaker-investing platform. The shoes are the prototype of West’s Yeezy line, and they’re the most expensive sneaker sale ever recorded.
The pair of Yeezy sneakers was the first recorded shoe sale to top $1 million, according to New York-based auction house Sotheby’s. The sneakers were the first-ever shoe in West’s Yeezy line, which, in the years since, has contributed to West’s becoming a billionaire and a major player in sneaker and streetwear culture.
Ryan Chang, who listed the shoes at Sotheby’s and collects and curates streetwear under the handle of @applied.arts.nyc, worked with Sotheby’s on the sale to RARES.
RARES will launch sales of shares of the sneakers on June 16, according to the platform’s website, which entreats users to “own a piece of the world’s most valuable shoe.”
RARES said that users can “reserve a spot” to buy shares of the valuable sneakers. Users create an account and are notified when shares of the shoe open up for sale. RARES sells these and other sneakers as SEC-approved investments and allows for collective ownership of the shoes.
Shares of shoes sold on the platform usually run between $15 and $25, according to the company. Gerome Sapp, the CEO of RARES, said in a press release that acquiring the Yeezys worn by West would allow “millions of individuals the ability to now invest in the culture.”
The Yeezy prototypes dethroned another Nike Air model for the title of most expensive sneakers sold at auction – the Nike Air Jordan 1s signed and worn during a game by basketball star Michael Jordan. They sold in May of 2020 at Sotheby’s for $560,000.
It can take 30 to 40 years for a pair to decompose in a landfill.
Learn about 10 sneaker brands using eco-friendly materials and more sustainable production methods.
The sneaker industry is bigger than ever, and its growth shows no signs of slowing.
More than 23 billion pairs of sneakers are produced every year, but behind the great demand for footwear is an industry so wasteful it’s almost beyond measure. Most of these new pairs use virgin plastic, rubber, and petroleum, producing alarming amounts of carbon dioxide. According to sneaker startup Nothing New, about 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown out every year and, on average, it takes 30-40 years for a pair to fully decompose in a landfill.
In the past, most shoppers would have put little thought into exactly how the items they bought were made, but that is no longer the case all around. In addition to demanding trendsetting styles and groundbreaking innovations, the educated consumers of today expect products to be made responsibly.
Sportswear retail expert Matt Powell explained to Insider that younger people are very concerned with how their purchases are affecting the environment. “Sustainability is an important theme in retail, so much so that younger consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products,” said Powell. “Brands have long been concerned about making products sustainably, but they’re being more forward and open about it.”
If you’re looking to make better, more sustainable choices, we hear you. We are too, which is why we rounded up this list of brands that are using innovative, eco-friendly materials and more sustainable production methods to make sneakers.
From performance sneakers made by popular brands like Nike and Adidas to fashion-forward trainers from startups like Everlane and Allbirds, you’ll find plenty of brands new and old working to set new standards.
Check out 10 brands making more sustainable sneakers:
Low Black Stripe Vintage Sneaker (small)
Founded in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, Cariuma is a sneaker brand that focuses on sustainability. The brand handmakes its sneakers using high-quality natural materials including organic fair-trade cotton, natural rubber from hevea brasiliensis trees, and leather from gold-rated tanneries using hides sourced from areas that weren’t deforested for cattle farming.
The brand ships its shoes directly in the shoebox, which eliminates the need for wasteful packaging. It also makes up for the carbon emissions associated with shipping products by purchasing carbon offsets, which brings its carbon footprint down to zero.
Cariuma’s sneakers have an old-school look, but with modern comfort. The insoles have a generous amount of memory foam, which make them easy to wear all day long.
When it comes to mainstream sportswear brands, Adidas is easily the most vocal about its sustainability efforts — and environmental organization Parley for the Oceans has been its biggest collaborator. The two brands teamed up for the first time in 2015 with a sneaker using yarn made from recycled ocean plastic and illegal deep-sea gill nets. They officially launched products to the public in 2016.
In 2020, Adidas made more than 20 million pairs of sneakers with Parley ocean plastic — a major increase from 11 million pairs in 2019 and 5 million pairs in 2018.
The Trainer (Men’s) (small)The Trainer (Women’s) (small)
While recycled knits account for a big part of the sustainable sneakers market, Tread by Everlane is for those who still appreciate quality leather. With 94.2% non-virgin plastic soles, leather sourced from the world’s cleanest tannery, and laces and linings made from recycled plastic bottles, The Trainer is touted (by its maker, mind you) as the world’s lowest-impact sneakers.
Even if you aren’t a particularly conscious consumer (although you should be), Tread by Everlane has great appeal. Its style lends itself well to minimalists and lovers of that cut-and-sewn look found on retro running sneakers.
Reebok first launched the Cotton + Corn sneakers with the NPC UK sneaker. It originally featured leather accents on the heel tab, but after receiving kickback from Peta, the brand took the initiative to make the shoe completely vegan. The updated sneaker features a 100% cotton upper, a sole derived from corn, and insoles made from castor bean oil. Even the packaging is 100% recycled.
Now, Reebok is continuing vegan shoes with the Corn + Cotton Slip-On, a casual sneaker.
Founded in 2019, Nothing New is a sneaker startup that aims to positively impact the planet and educate the people that live on it. Unlike most brands on this list that are simply making strides to improve their eco-friendliness, sustainability is at the very core of the brand.
As the name suggests, Nothing New sneakers are made with only recycled materials. The upper is 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, while its other components are made from recycled cotton, fishing nets, rubber, and cork.
Beyond the production process, Nothing New offers $20 discounts on new pairs to those who send back their used sneakers. Depending on the condition of the sneakers, Nothing New will clean and donate them or break them down and put the materials back into its recycled supply chain.
Over the last five decades, Nike has continually pushed boundaries in sportswear innovation. While performance has been at the forefront of its designs, sustainability has also been a major factor in recent years. Even though sustainability isn’t heavily incorporated into the brand’s marketing (compared to Adidas Parley or Allbirds), the brand’s work has not gone unnoticed.
In 2018, Nike was recognized by Textile Exchange as using the most recycled polyester in the industry for the sixth year in a row, and from 2010-2018, the brand transformed 6.4 billion plastic water bottles into recycled footwear or apparel.
Nike’s signature Flyknit material, which can be found on footwear throughout the brand’s catalog, is made in-part with recycled plastic, but the Swoosh is doing more than sustainable knits.
In 2019, Nike also launched sneakers made from Flyleather, a new material made from at least 50% recycled leather fiber. Although there haven’t been many other sneakers to release with Flyleather yet, you can expect the material to be included more often in future designs.
In 2020, Nike furthered its impact on sustainability by using recycled rubbers on midsoles and outsoles — a feature that could be seen on everything from Nike SBs to Converse. Some of the most notable use of materials made from recycled trash is the Nike Space Hippie collection and the new Cosmic Unity basketball shoe. In total, the brand has roughly 900 items available that are made from at least 20% recycled materials.
The Chuck Taylor All-Stars are cemented in footwear as one of, if not the most timeless sneakers on the planet, but Converse has proven that it’s able to stay in touch with modern demands. Using 100% recycled plastic bottles to make up its canvas upper, the Renew Collection is the latest example of its commitment to produce more carefully.
The process starts with plastic bottles sourced by the US-based recycling company First Mile. The plastic is then ground up into flakes, melted, rolled into bales, spun into yarn, and weaved into canvas.
The best part about the Converse Renew collection is that shoes are fully customizable and are available in sizes from toddlers to adults.
As the brainchild of New Zealand native Tim Brown and San Francisco-based renewables expert Joey Zwillinger, Allbirds is the wildly popular sneaker startup you’ve seen all throughout Silicon Valley and New York City. In the first four years, the brand reached a $77.5 million valuation — all thanks to its sustainable footwear.
Love them or hate them, all of Allbirds’ designs are undeniably unique and unmatched in comfort. The brand’s shoes are made with merino wool or eucalyptus trees for the uppers and sugar cane for the SweetFoam soles. They even made the patent on their SweetFoam material public so that other brands could utilize it as a sustainable alternative. Recycled plastic and castor bean oil also make their way into the inner-workings of the shoes. Allbirds even uses 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard for packaging that serves as a shoe box, shopping bag, and mailer all in one.
Founded in 2014 by Ryan Babenzien and footwear designer Jon Buscemi, Greats began as an affordable alternative to the luxury sneaker market. The brand’s signature style, The Greats Royale, features premium leather, is manufactured in Italy, and only costs $179 — which far less than comparable high-end sneakers.
In efforts to be more eco-friendly, Greats redesigned the silhouette with a recycled plastic knit upper. Seven plastic bottles go into making each pair of Royale Knit sneakers, and in the initial production run alone, Greats removed 75,000 bottles from the ocean.
In addition to the recycled plastic uppers, Greats uses recycled materials to produce the shoe boxes and packaging.
Founded in 2016, Rothy’s took over social media and the streets of New York and San Francisco with its recycled plastic flats for women. With such a heavy emphasis on sustainability, it was only right for the brand to start making other styles, including sneakers.
Aptly named “The Sneaker,” Rothy’s recycled plastic sneaker features a Vans-inspired slip-on look with a recycled plastic upper. Other eco-friendly elements of the shoe include recycled foam insoles, vegan, outsoles made from recyclable, carbon-free rubber and TPU, and vegan and non-toxic adhesives.
To date, Rothy’s has repurposed more than 35 million plastic water bottles in its footwear. For now, the brand only makes footwear for women and kids, so if you’re looking for shoes in men’s sizing, you’ll have to check out one of the other brands on this list.
Nike has launched a new program to clean and resell sneakers that have been used and returned by customers.
The athletics-wear giant announced Monday that “Nike Refurbished” would see “gently” or hardly worn shoes, or shoes returned with cosmetic flaws, cleaned and sold again at discounted prices. The shoes must have been returned within the company’s 60-day returns period to be resold.
In a press release announcing the news on Monday, the company did not say what would have previously happened when these sneakers were returned. Insider asked the company for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
The refurbished shoes will now be sold at its factory and outlet stores. This initiative is currently available at 15 US stores, but the company said it planned to add Nike Refurbished to more stores, to boost its sustainability and reduce waste.
While it promises to “help keep shoes out of landfills,” the new service also means Nike can stop some of its products reaching booming sneaker resale platforms such as StockX or GOAT.
Allbirds is one of the hottest footwear brands in recent years – and it’s not just because its shoes are made of wool.
The sneaker startup came about when Tim Brown, a New Zealand native, teamed up with San Francisco-based engineer and renewables expert Joey Zwillinger.
In 2016, they launched their first shoe, the Allbirds Wool Runners – a sneaker that’s innovative, comfortable, and sustainable. The brand quickly became popular because of its use of merino wool.
Why merino wool makes sense for sneakers
Most people think wool would be hot and itchy, but Allbirds uses a proprietary dual-faced wool that’s super soft and itch-free on the interior and dirt-resistant on the exterior.
With Allbirds’ special construction, the wool actually has many natural properties that make for amazing sneakers. They’re lightweight and breathable, cool in the heat, warm in the cold, and for those that like to go sockless, they’re odor-resistant. And the best part is, you can throw these sneakers in the washing machine, instead of meticulously scrubbing away stains like you would with traditional sneakers. If you’re looking for a pair of sneakers that are comfortable, durable, stylish, and affordable, Allbirds is the solution.
Still, the most popular and recognizable shoe from Allbirds is undoubtedly the Wool Runner, which many members of the Insider Reviews team have tried over the years. Read on for our thoughts on how they feel and fit, plus how they’ve held up since we first tested them in 2017.
September 2017 review: Silicon Valley is obsessed with these wool shoes, and now I understand why. I love wearing sneakers with dresses or skirts to add a sporty-casual feel, and my white Allbirds Runners were a seamless addition into my weekend daytime look.
One day, I wore these shoes after spending the entire previous day in heeled boots, and my sore feet seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. I’d normally be a little paranoid trying to care for bright white shoes, but I don’t worry at all about any scuffs or dirt that attack these shoes since I can just throw them in the washing machine at any time.
April 2021 update: The Wool Runners are still one of my favorite sneakers to wear because of their soft and supportive comfort. I used to wear the shoes without socks, but now I usually wear socks because I’ve discovered they’re even more comfortable that way. From experience, the insoles can start to smell if you go barefoot for too long, so that’s another reason to pair your Allbirds with some socks. Or, hand-wash those insoles often.
While I love white shoes, the maintenance is admittedly more intensive than one of the many other colors Allbirds offers. If I could go back, I think I would choose a different color (and luckily, there are plenty to choose from).
Another thing to note is that after a few years of regular wear, the soles wear out and the shoes feel less supportive. If you plan on wearing them often, don’t expect them to last too long. Still, I’d buy them again because they’re just that comfortable!
Malarie Gokey, Insider Reviews deputy editor
Women’s Wool Runners (small)
September 2017 review: I don’t wear sneakers very often, but when I do, they have to be comfortable and stylish. The Allbirds Runners meet both requirements in spades. These merino wool shoes are ridiculously soft — I couldn’t stop touching them when they first arrived!
I’ve never worn sneakers without socks before, but the wool was so silky and smooth that I gave it a try, and it worked. The Runners are super comfortable to walk in, and they’re also very light and breathable with or without socks.
April 2021 update: I don’t wear my Allbird runners too often, so I can’t speak to how much heavy wear they can withstand, but they’ve held up to light wear well. I wore them on a long hike once and they got a bit dirty, so I washed them by hand, and they looked like new afterwards. Anyone who’s ever labored over a pair of dirty or stained sneakers knows just how convenient it is to be able to wash your shoes without ruining them. They also seem to get more comfortable with age as they mold to my feet.
Amir Ismael, Insider Reviews senior reporter
Men’s Wool Runners (small)
September 2017 review: Before I even got to the actual shoes, my first impression on receiving my Allbirds Wool Runners was the box. As a sneaker collector, the box is sometimes just as important as the shoes themselves — it’s definitely something I wouldn’t throw away. Building on its efforts to improve sustainability, Allbirds ships its shoes in the same box that they’re stored in. The box unfolds and two separate compartments hold each sneaker.
Once I did get to the shoes, I was immediately impressed. When I think of lightweight sneakers, mesh or engineered knit comes to mind first — not wool. Upon learning about Allbirds, I actually thought wool sneakers were a bad idea, but the Wool Runners definitely proved me wrong.
The Allbirds sneakers are super comfortable, lightweight, and stylish. I’m able to wear them all day long because of the plush insoles and flexible outsole. I went with the Natural Grey pair for a minimal and subdued look, and I absolutely love them.
October 2019 update: I wore my Allbirds a few times after I initially reviewed them and they held up wonderfully. I can remember them being comfortable and surprisingly cool in warm weather, despite being made out of wool. As much as I liked them, I ended up donating them last year because I have way too many sneakers. They were still in lightly-used condition, so I can’t speak to how quick or badly they wear out.
Over the past two years, Allbirds has come out with several different shoe designs, but the original Wool Runner is still my favorite. I definitely wouldn’t mind owning another pair, but I know I’d have a hard time picking out a color — there are just so many great ones to choose from now.
The theme and exclusivity of the shoes, which have a price tag of $1,018 (a reference to Luke 10:18: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”), was enough to get South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem to tweet, “Our kids are being told that this kind of product is, not only okay, it’s ‘exclusive.’ But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul.”
However, both the product and the response to it are nothing new. In 1977, the flamboyant heavy rock band Kiss, who trafficked in both sexual and satanic themes, teamed up with Marvel Comics for a similar stunt.
At the peak of their popularity, the band’s most classic lineup (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley) traveled with legendary comics creator Stan Lee to Marvel’s printing facility outside of Buffalo, New York, where the members’ blood was drawn by a registered nurse under the watchful eye of a notary public.
“The idea being that every kid or everybody who bought a Kiss comic book in some way was getting a little bit of Kiss’ blood in that comic book,” said Lee in a 2016 interview.
The blood was then mixed with red ink and used to print “A Marvel Comics Super Special!: Kiss” – a magazine-sized comic that turned the band into superheroes and found them fighting Dr. Doom.
Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers were supporting characters.
As publicity stunts go, it was a success, as the comic sold 500,000 copies and was Marvel’s best-selling single issue until the 1990 relaunch of Spider-Man.
In a bizarre twist, Lee, who died in 2018, allegedly had his own blood stolen and made into “Stan Lee’s Solvent DNA Ink” which was used to stamp Marvel comics sold at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Whether or not Lil Nas X’s Satan Shoes become a collector’s item or just a pop culture artifact remains to be seen, but “A Marvel Comics Super Special!: Kiss” is now worth a bit more than its $1.50 cover price.
Read our reviews of the Runners and Skippers, plus an update after nearly three years of wear, below.
Chances are you’ve heard about Allbirds, the internet-famous $95 sneakers made from soft Merino wool.
We’ve tested them before, and our team universally feels that they’re pretty much the most comfortable shoes out there (read our review on the wool Loungers here, the Runners here, and the Runner-Up Mizzle here). In fact, an Insider Reviews survey showed that Allbirds was one of our readers’ favorite products that they have purchased as a result of an article we wrote.
There are a lot of reasons people like these shoes beyond just how comfortable they are. They’re also relatively affordable from $95-$145 a pair and they’re easy to clean with a simple spin in the washing machine. But for some, the biggest draw is the fact that the company maintains a deep, unshakable commitment to sustainability.
It’s this commitment that led the brand in early 2018 to develop and introduce an even more sustainable set of shoes made from trees – or more specifically, from a textile engineered using eucalyptus pulp.
According to Allbirds, this material uses 95% less water and cuts its carbon footprint in half when compared to traditional footwear materials.
Naturally, considering that merino wool prices have been steadily climbing, we wondered if the production of these shoes was intended to offset the increased cost of producing their wool line. After all, Allbirds is beloved in part because their shoes have maintained a steady and reasonable price since the very start. But the brand assured us that the idea for new, sustainable textiles had been in the works since before they even launched their original Runners in 2016.
We spoke with the founders of Allbirds, Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger, who told Insider that they’ve always envisioned Allbirds as a sustainable material innovation company. “For us, it was about creating a brand that challenges the status quo and redefines what it means to make something ‘better.”
The Tree Collection styles
The line, aptly named the “Tree collection,” is made up of six styles, including the Runners and Loungers that we already know and love, a pair they call the Skippers, which are similar to a boat sneaker, and a high-top Topper sneaker.
The material creates a cooling effect by wicking moisture away, making them perfect for summer. The makeup of the insoles has stayed consistent, so you can still expect the same comfort level as their classic pairs. The women’s styles come in up to 11 colors, and the men’s styles come in up to 12 colors.
As longtime fans of the brand, our team was given the chance by Allbirds to test out the Tree Runners and Tree Skippers. Keep reading to find a breakdown of each of our experiences with the styles (spoiler alert: they’re still really, really great).
Read our initial reviews, plus an update after nearly three years of wear, below:
Mara Leighton, Insider Reviews senior reporter:
March 2018 review: Allbirds is one of my favorite companies to shop from because they have always exceeded expectations on comfort, quality, and style. In other words, they’ve earned my trust as a valuable buy. I don’t feel bad dropping money on a new pair of shoes from them because I know I will wear them until they’re borderline disintegrating – and I will be glad every time I put them on. It sounds like an exaggeration, but they’re really that comfortable.
I tried the Tree Runner in navy, which is actually a nice dark green-blue in person (less bright than a true teal), and – again – Allbirds has exceeded my expectations. They’re crazy comfortable, the silhouette is flattering and close-fitting, and I love the smooth but texturized upper. The stylistic contrast of the thick laces is a really nice touch, and the semi-muted color means they go with basically anything.
The sole feels familiar (it’s the same structured, wool-lined insole found in my Loungers) and supportive, but the upper is even more breathable than my other pairs.
While I wouldn’t buy Allbirds if they weren’t consistently making the most comfortable shoes I own, I also love that they’re using sustainable materials (and encouraging innovation). They feel ridiculously good on, and any conscious consumer can feel great about buying them.
March 2021 update: Three years after testing them, these are still both my go-to travel shoes and my favorite pair of Allbirds. They’re comfortable, noticeably cooling, and perfect for all-day wear. The navy has held up well over time and shows negligible signs of wear after semi-frequent use.
Connie Chen, Insider Reviews senior reporter:
March 2018 review: I wear my Wool Runners regularly and am always more than happy to talk about how wonderful and comfortable they are to anyone who’s curious, so I was excited to learn about this newer style from one of my favorite brands. Itching for the feel of summer, I opted for the Tree Skippers, which are a modern twist on the classic boat shoe.
Again, Allbirds’ surprising materials have proven to be successful. I never would have guessed that the textile was made from eucalyptus pulp, but it provides an interesting, eye-catching texture that’s more unique than that of a traditional boat shoe. Eucalyptus is known for its cooling properties, so I appreciate that the Skippers offer the ideal casual summer look while also keeping my feet cool in warm weather. The Stone’s neutral, sandy color (color no longer available) reminded me of the beach and can really match with any color you wear on top.
Like Mara said, slipping into the shoe felt soft and familiar since it has the same wool-lined insole and heel cup of Allbirds’ other offerings. I’m also almost certain that these Skippers are more comfortable than the Runners, which is an impressive feat.
March 2021 update: My universal test for whether a pair of shoes is truly supportive and comfortable is how they feel when I wear them to a music festival. These all-day events are the ultimate battleground and involve a lot of walking, standing, and dancing – my Tree Skippers passed the test again and again. I like that they look even more casual than regular sneakers, which is why you’ll often find me wearing the Skippers on the weekend, regardless of the season.
I have discovered over the years, however, that the Skippers are more finicky to care for, perhaps because there’s less material and they have a thinner sole than the Runners. I think the mesh knit material is not as resilient as wool and is prone to slight shrinking and warping, so I would recommend that you either get a darker color or be extra careful while drying them post-wash.
David Slotnick, senior transportation reporter:
March 2018 review: “I tested out the Tree Skipper in Kauri Stone (color no longer available), and think I’ve found the perfect summer shoe. They feel like a combination of a boat shoe and a sneaker – I’ve never found the former very comfortable, but sneakers can be warm or restrictive during summer. The Tree Skipper is lightweight and breathable, and, to my delight, feels like a nice, properly-supportive shoe that would be equally fitting for walking around a city during vacation, wearing on the way to the beach, or on a boat. I can tie the laces to keep them on as I walk – even if I walk quickly or run – although I can kick them off without untying them if I want to.”
There are a few of reasons people will regularly miss out on hyped sneakers drops. But odds are, it’s because of a bot.
In the sneaker resale world, a “bot” refers to a software application that expedites the online checkout process and helps resellers nab hyped pairs in seconds – including limited-edition drops and collabs.
When sneakers are released in limited quantities, it’s often a race to see which sneakerheads can input their credit card information on a website or app the fastest in order to checkout before the product sells out. Bots are specifically designed to make this process instantaneous, offering users a leg-up over other buyers looking to complete transactions manually.
Though bots are notoriously difficult to set up and run, to many resellers they are a necessary evil for buying sneakers at retail price. The software also gets around “one pair per customer” quantity limits placed on each buyer on release day.
As the sneaker resale market continues to thrive, Business Insider is covering all aspects of how to scale a business in the booming industry. And bots are a major part of that. From how to acquire and use the technology to the people behind the most popular bots in the market today, here’s everything you need to know about the controversial software.
Acquiring a bot
Bots, like sneakers, can be difficult to purchase. Most bot makers release their products online via a Twitter announcement. There are only a limited number of copies available for purchase at retail. And once sold out, bots often resell for thousands of dollars.
Some private groups specialize in helping its paying members nab bots when they drop. These bot-nabbing groups use software extensions – basically other bots – to get their hands on the coveted technology that typically costs a few hundred dollars at release.
Once the software is purchased, members decide if they want to keep or “flip” the bots to make a profit on the resale market. Here’s how one bot nabbing and reselling group, Restock Flippers, keeps its 600 paying members on top of the bot market.
While bots are relatively widespread among the sneaker reselling community, they are not simple to use by any means. Insider spoke to teen reseller Leon Chen who has purchased four bots. He outlined the basics of using bots to grow a reselling business.
Most bots require a proxy, or an intermediate server that disguises itself as a different browser on the internet. This allows resellers to purchase multiple pairs from one website at a time and subvert cart limits. Each of those proxies are designed to make it seem as though the user is coming from different sources.
For example, “data center”proxies make it appear as though the user is accessing the website from a large company or corporation while a “residential proxy” is traced back to an alternate home address. Whichever type you use, proxies are an important part of setting up a bot. In some cases, like when a website has very strong anti-botting software, it is better not to even use a bot at all.
While most resellers see bots as a necessary evil in the sneaker world, some sneakerheads are openly working to curb the threat. SoleSavy is an exclusive group that uses bots to beat resellers at their own game, while also preventing members from exploiting the system themselves. The platform, which recently raised $2 million in seed funding, aims to foster a community of sneaker enthusiasts who are not interested in reselling.
We spoke to one of the group’s founders to hear about how members are taking on the botting community.
In many cases, bots are built by former sneakerheads and self-taught developers who make a killing from their products. Insider has spoken to three different developers who have created popular sneaker bots in the market, all without formal coding experience.
Splashforce, a bot that services nearly 4,000 customers, was created by an 18-year-old who had previously described himself as “dirt poor.” The teen founder and co-owner of Adept, another major sneaker bot, initially earned money via a paper route. Meanwhile, the maker of Hayha Bot, also a teen, notably describes the bot making industry as “a gold rush.”
Each of these self-taught bot makers have sold over $380,000 worth of bots since their businesses launched, according to screenshots of payment dashboards viewed by Insider.
The trend is born out of the desire for comfort over aesthetic during the work from home life, Gallagher said. “People just want to be a little bit more cozy,” Stefano Gugliotta,the 29-year-old behind the Obscure Sneakers Instagram account, told Gallagher. “I think that practicality is what people are gravitating toward right now.”
Footwear is just the latest retail sector that the work-from-home economy has transformed, having already fueled the comeback of tie-dye apparel, the rise of the day gown, and a renaissance of the lingerie category. In December, both UBS and Bank of America noted the uptick in sales for footwear retailer Nike during the pandemic. Its web traffic was up by 36% for its first quarter, and then up to 40% for the next three months, per Bank of America.
Nike said on its December earnings call that it was seeing permanent shifts toward digital, athletic wear, and health and wellness amid the pandemic, and Bank of America said these trends aligned with its thesis on the dominance of solitary leisure during the pandemic.
A post shared by Dave Walker III (Wavey Davey) (@lovesimplydave)
But some young adults who are no less into sneakers want something less mainstream. The walking shoe, with roots in normcore, the “average” fashion trend that rejects other fashion trends, is also appealing for being relatively uncommon among younger cohorts amid the now oversaturated sneaker market, Gallagher wrote. It, helps, too that they can be more affordable than expensive sneakers. Air Jordans can cost as much as $235, compared to the Merrell Jungle Moc that averages $85.
It’s not the first time millennials have redefined footwear as a status symbol.
The coolness of comfortable, ‘ugly’ shoes
Footwear has long been used as a status symbol, but its symbolism has evolved as millennials and Gen Z have come to prioritize function over appearance. Both generations fueled the “ugly fashion movement,” which favors more comfortable, practical clothing, and dressing ugly as irony.
“Uncool companies are ideal for millennials and Gen Z to love, discover, and sport because they represent exactly what the younger generation craves: being different without looking like you’re trying,” Jason Dorsey, millennial and Gen Z-expert of the Center for Generational Kinetics, told Insider back in 2015.
“It’s easy to wear whatever the hot thing is that is all over social media for the one month it’s new, but it’s a lot harder to go on a different path and find the brands that are unexpected for you to be seen wearing,” he added.
Halfway through the last decade, Birkenstocks and LL Bean boots had garnered a youthful street appeal, considered cool for their practicality. By 2019, the same could be said of the No. 6 clogs favored by Brooklyn moms pushing a stroller down Flatbush Avenue, touted as an “ugly-chic shoe obsession” by the likes of Vogue.
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The comfort over aesthetic is exactly what propelled much of sport leisure footwear that year, driven largely by Gen Z and millennials. Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst at The NPD Group, told Insider in 2019, that the trend was largely a reflection of how the younger generation was working and living.
“A casual and comfortable lifestyle has become the norm, and we see this reflected in consumers’ footwear and apparel choices,” she said. “And, in some cases, sneakers are the new status items.”
Insider is taking you behind the scenes of our best stories with our series “The Inside Story.”
This week, events and content fellow Grace O’Connell-Joshua spoke to Insider retail reporter Shoshy Ciment who primarily covers athletic-wear, sneakers, and streetwear with a focus on companies like Nike, Adidas, and StockX.
Ciment shares how she fell into covering the booming market, why diversity is the most important story in the sneaker world today, and her favorite kicks (Yeezy Suns!).
Grace O’Connell-Joshua: You focus on athleticwear, streetwear and sneakers. What a cool beat! How did you get into covering the industry?
Shoshy Ciment: I did not have a serious interest in sneaker culture before I started covering it. I started off covering retail generally as an Insider fellow in 2019 and on a whim, decided to head out to cover a pop-up shop for sneakers from an Adidas and Arizona Iced Tea collab that were going for 99 cents that summer.
When I got there, the scene was complete chaos. I ended up being one of the first people to break the story about how police had to shut down the pop-up after two teenagers were assaulted in massive crowds of angry people who were willing to get violent for some shoes. This was my first real-world exposure to the sneakerverse and I knew I wanted to continue to learn more about this culture and its enthusiasts. From there, I started interviewing people in the industry, on the retail and resale side, and continued to read and learn more.
O’Connell-Joshua: What do you think is driving the sneaker resale market? Why are consumers switching over to resale instead of buying directly?
Ciment: The sneaker resale market is successful for a variety of reasons that come down to basic economics. Certain sneakers will always be inherently valuable, such as those that feature collabs with celebrities like Travis Scott or Virgil Abloh, or those with especially unique designs or origin stories. This inherent value is intensified when the sneaker is released in a limited quantity. Demand for a new pair almost always outweighs the supply in a new drop, which makes them even more valuable on the resale market.
O’Connell-Joshua: What streetwear social media accounts do you follow and why?
Ciment: So much of the sneaker community exists on social media so it’s super important to stay on top of all the latest online trends and follow all the bot accounts and cook groups. I follow some more mainstream media accounts like Complex, Hypebeast, Footwear News, B/R Kicks, Sneaker News, etc for news, but also rely on some up-and-coming accounts like Saint (@saint on Twitter). Some of my favorite sneaker people to follow include Edgar Alvarez from InputMag, NPD sports analyst Matt Powell, and Michael Sykes, II from FTW, who has an AWESOME sneaker newsletter called The Kicks You Wear, which I read every week.
O’Connell-Joshua: Do you describe yourself as a “sneakerhead”? If yes, how many pairs do you have and which are your favorite?
Ciment: While I am absolutely not a sneakerhead, I am able to appreciate and enjoy the culture as someone who covers it. I do find myself constantly looking down to see what people have on their feet though.
I don’t have a sneaker collection but my favorite pairs these days are the Yeezy Suns (those colors!) and the ‘Gym Red’ Jordan 1s. In general, I prefer classic silhouettes like Jordan 1s and the OG Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars (I wear these a lot).
O’Connell-Joshua: At the inauguration, I noticed that the husband of Kamala Harris’s niece (Meena Harris), Nikolas Ajagu, wore a pair of the Air Jordan 1 x Dior collaboration. Do you think sneakers have become increasingly political over the past few years, especially after Colin Kaepernick’s Nike campaign?
Ciment: Sneakers are absolutely more than just a fashion statement. The sneaker industry has never existed in a silo and is intrinsically bound to an array of cultural influences. For example, as most people know, sneaker culture has its roots in Black culture. This fact is a major focal point behind many diversity efforts among big footwear companies today.
To me, it’s not surprising to see sneakers permeate life outside of fashion. For some people, sneakers might just be an income or a way to avoid being barefoot. For others, sneakers are a way to express one’s values and individuality.
O’Connell-Joshua: What is a day in the life of a streetwear/sneaker reporter like?
Ciment: I start my day on Twitter, generally to see what drop people are complaining about missing out on. I connect with some sources, answer emails, read the latest news, and connect with my editors about possible story ideas.
O’Connell-Joshua: What’s your favorite part of your job?
Ciment: I love getting to meet young entrepreneurs who hustle like mad to get to where they are. There are a lot of rags to riches stories in the sneaker world and it is always inspiring to get to hear them firsthand.
O’Connell-Joshua: What’s the biggest story on your beat today?
The lack of diversity inside top footwear companies today is one of the biggest stories on my beat. Many people have been having this conversation regarding the lack of representation of minorities in the industry for years. Finally, the big brands are taking action and working on a change, which is great news. Now, it’s a matter of following up on these commitments and understanding how change is happening, if at all. Who are the leaders behind this movement? What is the root of the problem? These are the questions I try to understand in my reporting in this area.
Beyond resale, side-hustling, and the latest Yeezys, I see the topic of diversity as one of the most important stories in the footwear industry today.