At ATC, a sneaker consignment store in Miami Beach, an unassuming pair of black leather Nikes with green soles sits in a locked glass cabinet.
These shoes are Air Jordan 1s, from the XX8 Days Of Flight series.
Don’t know what that means? This may help: The asking price for the one-of-a-kind size 10s under glass is $13,500.
Miami has become a draw for people who buy, collect and trade shoes like these. “Sneakerheads” have encyclopedic knowledge of the latest and greatest shoes, such as the Air Jordan 1s, and approach them like some collectors approach rare stamps and coins, driven by a thirst for value, prestige and profit.
What makes the Air Jordan 1s so valuable? It’s a one-of-a-kind shoe Nike created for a contest. It never went on sale.
It’s just an example of how companies like Nike and Adidas fuel sneaker fever. They make special sneakers in limited runs, and the fewer made, the more valuable they can become. The sneakers feature flashy designs, usually created in collaboration with an athlete, celebrity, performing artist and other shoe “tastemakers.”
Releases of the shoes attract long lines the first day they are sold at stores, akin to the hype that surrounds the release of new Apple products. And then, if the buyer is lucky, they grow in value.
Lifted by the popularity of the Heat and especially LeBron James — who has earned tens of millions of dollars on shoe deals and is part owner of a sneaker boutique in Aventura — Miami has become a city that rivals Los Angeles and New York as a place where sneakerheads come to find the rarest limited edition shoes.
For the first crack at limited edition shoes, they flock to sneaker boutiques including SoleFly near South Miami and Shoe Gallery in downtown Miami.
In the aftermarket — at conventions, on eBay and in specialty stores — hundreds of dollars can turn to thousands for the rarest models. Shoes for less than $100 can be found but prices escalate rapidly from there. Generally, the average price for a pair of shoes in the Miami aftermarket ranges from $250 to $300 at conventions like SoleFest, and $300 to $400 at shoe consignment shops like ATC.
The more limited the edition, the more potentially expensive, and that’s what whets the appetite of local sneakerheads. At a recent Miami Beach sneaker convention, seventh-grader Kurt Carlson bought a pair of “Nike LeBron James Crown Jewel” sneakers, created last year in honor of the Miami Heat star’s 10th year in the NBA.
Nike produced fewer than 650 pairs of the fuchsia-colored shoes, making them prime targets for sneaker enthusiasts like Kurt — who picked up his pair for $800 earlier this month at SoleFest at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
So how did Kurt feel about paying $800 for a pair of secondhand sneakers?
“These I got a good deal on,” he said. “They [usually] go for $850, $900.”
The next big event in Miami happens June 29. It’s called Sneaker Con, at the University of Miami’s BankUnited Center, and it’s expected to attract between 3,000 and 5,000 people, according to its co-founder, Yu-Ming Wu.
“Sneaker Con started in New York but the attendance in Miami is slowly approaching our New York numbers,” said Wu.
The shoes are a big business for Heat players. The Heat’s James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are prominently followed on sneaker blogs for their choice of footwear, and their endorsements of shoes carry significant weight.