FIRST THINGS FIRST: As a true “#menswear” enthusiast, I’m all-in for today’s luxurious designer sneakers. Seriously, just look around: It’s as if we all collectively blinked, and guys everywhere traded in their ratty, decades-old running shoes for sleek pairs with suede swooshes, “tonal laces,” and eye-popping color schemes. Frankly, the only problem with all of this fabulous new footwear is actually purchasing a pair: No one ever knows when certain models are going to drop, how many pairs the manufacturer will be selling, or even where you can get them. (Yes, this is all by design.)
This summer, Adidas Originals may or may not release a collaboration with the musician Pharrell. Nike’s unlimited stream of limited-edition Jordans is rumored to include a Wu-Tang Clan–designed pair, as well as ultra-exclusive one-off models produced alongside New York–based designer-shoe meccas KITH and Extra Butter. (And good luck ever buying a pair from Yeezy, the Adidas line that Kanye West has single-handedly publicized to prominence.)
But don’t worry if you’re dying for a pair that is guaranteed to sell out. Just follow these three steps.
Spot your new kicks
Traditionally, the biggest drop days for new sneakers were NBA All-Star Weekend (in February); Black Friday, in November; and the weekend before Christmas. But as sneaker culture has gone mainstream, there are now new sneaker drops on almost every day of the year. The only consistency is the time: Whether in a specialty store or online, set your alarms: 10 a.m. EST. You never know what specific models are dropping—brands cancel or announce releases with the unpredictability of your craziest of ex-girlfriends. (Nike is known to pull releases less than 24 hours before they’re due to go on sale). But there are apps out there that aim to predict, with admittedly limited reliability, the schedule of upcoming release dates. The best on both iOS and Android are Unlaced (free), or the Nike-centric J23 ($1.99).
So if there’s a shoe you want—like, say the New Balance Deconstructed 580 (shown above)—your best bet is to follow those apps and then, like a hunter in a deer stand, set up watch on Instagram and Twitter for your shoes to flash by. Search terms like #KOTD (Kicks of the Day), #KicksonFire and #Heat. Also be sure to follow a man who calls himself “Gucci Paul,” an elusive thirtysomething Brit who has proven consistently trustworthy in the info that he posts. Regardless, the minute any noteworthy kicks drop, you’re bound to know about it on any of these shoe-dedicated accounts: @Sneakernews, @CollectiveKicks, @KicksonFire, @Hypebeast, and select retailers like @KithSet, @Cncpts, and @ExtraButterNY.
Close the deal on your new kicks
Once you see a pair of shoes drop that you can’t live without, now it’s time to buy them. Or at least try. Most retailers, whether brick-and-mortar or online, now sell the limited-edition kicks through a raffle system.
It works like this: You apply for a particular style and size in advance, and then a lucky few are selected and offered the chance to buy. In person, you simply arrive and collect a ticket, but online sales are usually tied to social media. For example, Extra Butter’s process involves posting a photograph of the shoes on Instagram and directing followers to its website. If, like many frustrated sneakerheads, you don’t like the roll of the dice, you can try to stack the odds in your favor by turning to bots such as easycopbot.com (from $95) or anothernikebot.com (from $325). These bots bombard stores with multiple applications for a single customer, significantly upping his chances.
Try (again) to buy those new kicks
What if you don’t manage to score the sneakers you’ve been stalking, your first option is a reputable reseller. Sure, you could scour Twitter or eBay, but you’re at risk of shelling out for fakes. Instead, sneaker collector Thomas Sun suggests trying one of the top resellers including RIF (rif.la), Flight Club (flightclub.com), or Stadium Goods (stadiumgoods.com). “Most of the people who take in sneakers at these stores for resale have worked there a long time, so they don’t really get caught off guard [by fakes],” Sun says. “And with legit product, always ask for the original receipt so you know it’s 100% Nike or Yeezy.”
Really, really hard-to-find sneakers will cost you a high premium from a reseller—don’t even get me started on the recent black Yeezy 750 Boosts, originally $350, on sale now for $2,000 or higher—but it’s a sweat-proof way of shopping.
But here’s the thing: In the case of most brands, buying them from a reseller won’t always cost you extra. In fact, a little patience could score you a bargain pair of kicks. According to Tyler Blake, the blogger and reseller known as @TheRealTBlake, the industry’s made it deliberately difficult to gauge how many pairs of any given shoe will be offered. A lot of pairs are likely to be reissued within days to help slake the thirst of that frenzied market. Blake himself regularly opts to wait out the initial hysteria and scour the websites for Foot Locker or KITH a few days later. “If a style is still sitting there, chances are it’s offered [on resale] for less than retail price.” If a major store over-orders a particular style, it’ll discount them and sell through alternative channels, driving down prices for customers shopping the secondary market. Blake says it’s not unusual to find new sneakers 20-40% off within weeks or even days of their release at retailers like eBay or kicksundercost.com. If you miss out? Don’t worry. There’s always another pair dropping tomorrow.