Once upon a time, buying a pair of sneakers was as simple as walking into your local Footlocker and asking for your size. Now, if you want a pair of kicks that will get a nod from your local sneakerhead, you’ll need a little bit of luck, patience, and know how. Luckily for you, I’m here to help. This guide will help you on your quest to secure your grails(that one pair you lust over). First, we’ll start with a discussion on the current landscape of the sneaker market and then move on the most important part – how to buy sneakers in 2019. So let’s get started.
The Sneaker Market Today
Let’s start with the basics. For this guide, we’re going to start with a simple premise. There are two types of shoes in the sneaker world – general releases(GR) and limited-run. GRs are the sneakers that you see in your local retail stores like Footlocker. These are the shoes that you walk in, pick a size and walk out with shoes in hand. You won’t always see Nike release a popular Jordan sneaker as a GR, but it does happen. It’s not difficult to buy any of these sneakers, and any of the apps listed below are perfect for your shopping needs. Now limited-run kicks, that’s a different story.
In a nutshell, limited-run sneakers are the product of supply and demand. They are the original Jordans that MJ wore in games, collaborations between brands(like Nike and Adidas) with celebrities, fashion houses, and well-known designers. GRs and Limited-run work hand in hand. The GRs keep the lights on while limited-run kicks give brands the street cred they need to stay popular among sneakerheads and resellers. These days, if you want to make a statement, you want something that’s limited-run.
Now we know the difference between a general release sneaker and one that is limited-run. With that knowledge, it’s time to buy, right? Wrong. It would be mean-spirited to send you into the world without letting you know about the lions, tigers, and bears roaming the wilderness. Or in this case the bots, resellers, and plugs. Something that every sneakerhead has to deal with.
In the beginning, there was the retail store, and retail store provided for the sneakerhead. It was a simple, isolated world inhabited only by those who enjoyed the thrill of the hunt for an exclusive pair of sneakers. Of course, niche markets can never stay hidden for long and what was once an insolated market place has become global, equipped with its own brand of bullshit. Now, sneakers are a commodity and most people who buy sneakers aren’t buying them to wear them – they’re buying them for resell. These are people who buy sneakers for the retail price and resell for some times double the value. It’s a dog eat dog world for resellers, and they compete with each other by using bots, computer programs that cheat the systems that sneaker brands use to sell sneakers. So what does this mean for you, the neophyte sneaker customer? It means if you plan on buying limited-run sneakers, prepare to have your heart broken – a lot. Or, you can pay a ‘plug,’ a person plugged into the market, to get you a pair on release day for a fee. You got to pay to play around here.
These days if you want to buy sneakers you use an app. Initially, they were created for two reasons. 1) To enhance the buying experience 2) combat bots. While it seemingly failed at the second objective, it has never been easier to buy shoes online. One only needs to download one of the apps listed below, sign up, and begin buying whatever your heart desires. Most apps will have GR and limited-run kicks but just know if you’re going after something highly desirable, you’re going to have fight for a pair like the rest of us. That usually means opening the app at a specific time and waiting in a digital line to see if you win a pair…you probably won’t.
SNKRS and Nike
If you want something Nike these are the two apps you need. The easiest way to think about it is like this – SNKRS for limited-run cops(purchases), and Nike for everything else. The Nike app gives you access to anything you would see online and while SNKRS does offer more than just limited-run releases it doesn’t have access to the entire inventory like the regular Nike app. Bonus, sometimes the Nike app will give you early access to a release, but you have to have the app installed. SNKRS will have surprise drops, but they can be hit or miss. Sometimes you’ll get a notification, other times you won’t. Download both and have fun.
Adidas does have an app that functions similar to the general Nike app. What’s different is how Adidas handles the release of Yeezys. Instead of waiting in a queue and hoping for the best, Adidas only lets you attempt to reserve if you are in a specified geographical location. If you’re a fan of the three stripes, this is the app for you.
Retail Apps(Footlocker/Foot Action/Finishline)
Nike and Adidas aren’t the only apps you’ll want to download when it comes to buying kicks on your phone. Retail stores have created apps to make the buying experience easier for those who don’t necessarily care to shop in store. These apps give you access to a large variety of GRs from multiple brands and give you the chance to reserve limited-run sneakers. Their reserve process works somewhat similar to SNKRS with some key differences. Instead of a global queue, you’ll select up to three stores close to you that will have the sneakers on the release date. You can also earn a head start by enrolling in their membership programs and spending money in the store or on the app. I’ve had various levels of success with the footlocker app, and I would recommend it to others.
Resell Apps(Goat and StockX)
So what do you do when you didn’t get the shoes you want? You hit the secondary market. Now depending on your stance on reselling kicks, this might be a non-starter. But for those of you who have to have a particular pair of sneakers no matter the cost, these two apps are going to be your best bet.
Brokers and traders have Wall Street, sneakerheads have StockX. It is a stock market for sneakers. Yes, I’m serious. StockX has become the central place to buy sneakers resell. The app tracks the buying and selling of kicks so you can see what you want at the best price. However, if you’ve never shopped for kicks on the secondary market be prepared for sticker shock. Yes, those shoes cost that much. But that’s the game you’re in now.
If StockX is Uber, Goat is Lyft. Sure, it might not have all the commercials and advertisements, but it’s still an excellent place to shop for kicks. One advantage to having both StockX and Goat is the ability to cross-shop and check price. There are times when one platform has a pair of sneakers for a lower price than the other.
Even with apps listed above there are still going to times when you’ll purchase kicks on a traditional website instead of an app. This shift between an app and web-based shopping is due to the nature of how some kicks are released. Collabs(ex: Nike partnering Drake) aren’t always released on apps. Sometimes it’s a smaller release with a company that doesn’t have an app but does have a company website where you can buy said sneakers. Some of the old guard, Flight Club for example, that still operate on the web. If you’re going to shop online there are a few places you should look:
Resell Shops (Flight Club and Stadium Goods)
Boutiques (Sneaker Politics/Wish ATL/Rooted)
Keeping Up With Trends and Shopping IRL
Of course, it’s not enough to just have the apps to shop, you need to stay in the know of what’s coming soon and where to buy the next pair. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to keep up with sneaker news. If you have an iPhone check out the app Unlaced. It aggregates all sneaker news into one place. If you’re on IG or Twitter, try a few of these accounts:
And finally, take some time to find your local sneaker boutiques and give them a visit. Boutiques will always have something off the beaten path, and you can come up on some kicks that you wouldn’t find in the store. Plus, as you get to know the staff and spend time in the store, you’ll begin to refine your own tastes and become a new hub of information among your friends. And most importantly…HAVE FUN!