I need some new shoes. The lionshare of my hoofing is now done in a pair of brown/green Vans I bought at Kohl’s about three, maybe four years ago. They are comfortable (and my nephew remarked that they were “cool shoes” when he first saw them, lo those three/four years ago), but the laces are so long they’ve always bothered me (I step on them unless I double or triple knot them) and they are three/four years old, after all.
I don’t like your typical shoe store. I like funkier shoes. When Steve Maddens first burst on the scene, I really wanted a pair, then Denny bought some, and then I couldn’t. (The girls in the audience will understand.) When I visit Steve Madden now (online, the shoe stores here are a little devoid of cool) I like some of them, but they don’t seem as unique as they did then.
So, knowing that Nike had started an online shoe customization business a couple of years ago, I decided to go looking online. I really did try to find someone other than the big shoe companies that would let me customize a shoe, but all I could find were specialized, hand-made neo-cobblers (like these guys that make clown shoes), and “customizers” who wouldn’t let you see what you’re customizing. I’m already wary enough about the sizing issue, hell if I’m going to buy my shoe without seeing it first. So I was left at the trough of Big Shoe.
- Adidas. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Adidas. The original three-leaf logo was very familiar to me growing up in Argentina, and I like the look of a shoe with three stripes. But their customized shoe site, mi Adidas, doesn’t let you customize and buy a shoe online. Instead, they tease you with a pretty site, then tell you to visit an upcoming demonstration at a store near you. The nearest store near me? New York City. 1,233 miles away, as the Google goes.
So much for Adidas.
- K-Swiss. Maybe if I can’t have three stripes, I can have five, right? Their site, My K-Swiss, is pretty easy to use. First you pick a shoe design, which are all very sporty (not surprising, given K-Swiss’ sporting image), and I chose the Ghent.
I made a nice shoe, but with only a few choices for the base color, it did turn out a little Eddie Bauer. So I explored a little more on My K-Swiss, and it turns out that their idea of “customization” is a little like Henry Ford’s. Depending on which model of shoe you choose, you can choose a few colors for basic parts, and then a ton of colors for one part, like the stripes (though some shoes only let you choose metallic or black for the stripes). It wasn’t really the custom shoe bonanza I was looking for.
- Nike. They started this business with their NikeiD site, and their site shows it. The Flash is terribly slow (probably still the original code), and the sheer number of shoe styles and options is a bit overwhelming. Eventually I chose the Tennis Classic Premium iD, recommended “If you want a elegant, comfortable shoe with street style.” Hell yeah, that’s me. Especially the Street Style™ part. Here are the shoes I made:
Do you see a trend in colors? I wasn’t too impressed by the colors offered in the Tennis shoe, but Nike’s site is so full of shoes that I thought I should give them another shot. This time I chose the Air Tiempo Rival Premium iD, a self-described “indoor soccer boot” but listed under the category “Sports Culture” (as opposed to Soccer, or Football, or Running, or any other Real Sport) so I thought it was probably for me.
Here were the colors I was looking for! Overall, the Nike site was pretty good, but dreadfully slow, and full of annoying beeps and whistles. They need to re-code it, I think. But they do have lots and lots of shoe options. Converse also has a site, but they re-use Nike’s software, and you have to love your Chuck Taylors to shop there. Some people do. Not me.
- Reebok. Their site, RbkCustom, just opened recently. The Flash is pretty fast, and while the number of shoes you can customize isn’t very large, you can choose just about any color for just about any part. This, I think, is where I’ll buy my shoes. I began with the Men’s DJ II, a low, leather shoe with smooth features. For the last shoe, I tried out a more classic Reebok sneaker design, the Supercourt. Here are the designs I worked up:
I was happiest with the Reebok site, though the Nike site beat them hands down on selection for sports shoes, they had about the same number of sports-styled shoes for people like me. I used to have a pair of black Reebok high-tops… a long time ago.
Now, of course, I just need to rustle up the money to buy shoes. These are all in the $80-$100 range, not too bad for a shoe these days. Barring that, I could, of course, just take a BIC to my Vans.