Almost everyone in the world wear shoes. Most people put them on one foot at a time. The same goes for athletes. The biggest difference is the amount of time, passion, and money that is invested into the shoes of a modern-day athlete. Price isn’t always the deciding factor of what your favorite sports stars decide to wear that day. Some decisions come with praise and others, not so much. Footwear has many growing trends and athletes play a big role in that.

Odell Beckham Jr. Sporting light-up Christmas cleats in 2015

Performance is everything in modern-day sports. Every athlete wants to get bigger, faster, and stronger. Many tools are used to help this even outside of the human body. Accessories are a big key to an athlete’s performance and shoes play one of the biggest parts. Picking out the proper footwear means important decisions even when you are dealing with a football players cleats or a snowboarder’s boots. Depending on your sport would mean choosing from something to make you faster or lighter. Some take into account the breathability, insulation, flexibility, and stiffness. All of these become factors when an athlete laces up to face their competition. Many have also capitalized off of this.

Sports apparel is a booming business. This year alone, the worldwide shoe market is responsible for 106 billion dollars in revenue. Nike by itself has had 9.3 billion dollars in sales which is almost a tenth of the market. The business of making shoes shows itself to be quite profitable. The same could be said about selling shoes. FootLocker and the other big giants have made a living off of the world of shoes. Finish line has sold over 1 billion dollars of shoes in 555 retails stores across America. Almost everywhere you go now you can now buy shoes, including right from home with the many magazines and websites. Athletes have even cashed in on this economic space. We all know Michael Jordan’s famous line of shoes. We know by now how expensive they can be as well. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant surpassed 150 million dollars in sales just between the three of them the past few years. Everyone seems to be cashing in on the gold rush of apparel.

sneakers for the stars
Artist Billy McAvoy designing custom shoes, 2018.

These boots aren’t made for just walkin’. Many artists have used this avenue as a way to show off their creative expression. The customizing and painting of shoes has not only become a big trend but also a growing business. Odell Beckham Jr once wore a pair of light up sneakers with a Christmas present on them during pregame warm-ups to celebrate the holiday. I wonder how much those shoes are going for on the market these days…

I was able to speak with a local artist, Billy McAvoy (aka illunaire), who has actually provided game shoes for many athletes and entertainers alike. “When I was younger I noticed many athletes had player exclusive shoes that were rarely ever released. I ended up ordering some shoes from a guy in Chicago and he totally messed them up. I then decided to order the paint and fix them myself. I guess I had a hidden talent with this whole thing because from there I never looked back.” Billy has since designed shoes for famous hip hop artists such as Eminem, Chance the Rapper, and Kevin Gates. One of his more proud moments came in 2018 when he provided the actual game shoes for the Detroit Lions’ star defensive player, Ziggy Ansah. Many aspiring artists across the world have been customizing shoes for their personal gratification and to sell to other aficionados.

Ziggy Ansah of the Detroit Lions wearing custom sneakers by artist Illunaire, 2018

Apparel has also caused quite a bit of controversy among the sports world. Many athletes and sports stars alike have got themselves in a bit of trouble for the art, color, and design of their shoes. The NBA banned the Air Jordan 1’s from their league for not displaying enough white on them due to their 51% white shoe policy. Take Antonio brown for example. In 2016 he was fined and told he could not play in the second half of a contest against the Eagles for wearing a blue pair of shoes (pictured) with his children’s faces on them. Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs was sent a letter from the MLB’s front office saying they would fine him if he did not stop wearing black spiked cleats due to their 51% team color policy earlier this year. Each league tends to have their own set of rules regarding the players shoe choices but it seems as if more players are speaking out against it.

Artists and athletes have also used this opportunity as a way to praise others, support charitable causes, or to show the memory of a lost loved one. Every year the NFL and many other organizations support breast cancer awareness month and that can be seen on none other than the feet of your favorite sports stars. In 2016 the NFL ruled to allow the players to advertise their respective charities with a campaign called My Cleats My Cause. Some have used this opportunity to fund research for chronic diseases and cures. Many others have used the platform as a way to fight oppression, world hunger or endangered species. At some point you can assume that each sports figure has given a shout out to their mom, whether it be on a tattoo on their body or the sneaker they lace up each game.

Sometimes the little things in sports go unnoticed or don’t present themselves to be important even to warrant detail. The shoes players wear or design is a huge business and art form that is starting to gain traction like no other. Now head on out to the store and buy some new kicks.

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David Jaquays

David Jaquays is a freelance writer from Kalamazoo, Michigan. David is currently attending Kalamazoo Valley Community College for a degree in General Marketing. David is here to share his sports passion and knowledge with us here at MFST. He specializes in NFL and NBA but has a very broad spectrum of professional and minor league sports.
David Jaquays
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Latest posts by David Jaquays (see all) JaquaysNBANFLRecent PostsNBA,NFL,sneaker industry,Sneakers of the StarsAlmost everyone in the world wear shoes. Most people put them on one foot at a time. The same goes for athletes. The biggest difference is the amount of time, passion, and money that is invested into the shoes of a modern-day athlete. Price isn't always the deciding factor...