If Imelda Marcos's much publicized love affair with shoes set the bar for footwear obsession, then Brian Spar's sneaker love is just a notch below it. Like the former Philippine first lady, who reportedly owned some 3,000 pairs of shoes, Mr. Spar could go months without wearing the same pair of sneakers twice. He has more than 300 pairs of them from off the shelf Nike Dunks SB (a skateboarding shoe that retails for about $70) to rare Nike Air Force One low tops that could fetch more than $1,000 in some sneaker collecting circles. Spar is a bona fide "sneakerhead" one of a growing number of enthusiasts who collect, critique, discuss, analyze, obsess about, display, sell, and sometimes even wear the sneakers, or "kicks," they buy. His living room and bedroom, closets, and just about anywhere else he can find space in his New Haven, Conn., home is a sneaker shrine. "You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes," Spar says. "People will skimp on a shirt or make do with a pair of jeans, but if there's an opportunity to start fresh, we start at the feet. It's the one thing we spend the most money on." Sneaker love isn't a new phenomenon, says Jeff Carvalho, cohost of Weekly Drop, an audio podcast on sneakers with an estimated 35,000 listeners. It's been around for decades, he says, "but it really took off around 1996 and '97." He, like many sneaker enthusiasts, points to three drivers of the trend: "retro" shoes (remakes of previously released models); 20 somethings who are looking for (and now have the means to buy) that pair of kicks that eluded them in their adolescence; and blogs, which allow sneakerheads to post pictures, build hype, and connect with one another. But the sneaker craze isn't limited to the Internet. Traveling sneaker shows (the Sneaker Pimps tour and the International Sneaker Battle competition, for example) and magazines (Laced, Sneaker Freaker, and Sole Collector) help sneaker fanatics stay current on the latest trends. That has to be good news for footwearmakers, particularly Nike: Their "swoosh" logo adorns more than half of all kicks sold each year in the $26 billion global sneaker market. Some $13 billion worth of sneakers are sold in the US. (When contacted for comment on this article, a Nike spokeswoman would only say that the company does not keep track of what happens to their shoes after they're sold. Neither Reebok nor Adidas responded to requests for interviews.) Nike's most sought after models include Air Jordan, Air Max, Air Force One, and Dunks. But Adidas, Puma, Reebok, Vans, and Bathing Ape (a Japanese sneaker company) feed the phenomenon, too, with limited quantity, limited editions, and regionally released kicks. "It's all about having that pair that no one else has," says Rob Heppler, Mr. Carvalho's cohost on the weekly sneaker podcast. "You want it to be hard to get." How hard? In some cities, sneakerheads camp outside sneaker stores before the arrival of a new "colorway" (color combination) or limited release shoe. Last year at a New York City sneaker store, police were called in to control a crowd waiting to buy Nike Pigeon (NYC) Dunks, named for the bird stitched on its side. Only 150 pairs were made, making it a prized catch for collectors. Although Nike's suggested retail price was $69, the store sold its small cache for $300 a pair. Within days, the shoe was selling on eBay for up to $750. It was a similar scene earlier this year at Concepts, a sneaker store in Cambridge, Mass. The much anticipated Air Jordan Defining Moments Package was about to be released: a two pair bundle in which Nike "retroed" the Jordan 6 and Jordan 11 models for $300. The night before, customers slept on the sidewalk outside. There was a problem: "We didn't have enough shoes," manager Deon Point recalls. "So we had to bring those that had gotten a pair out the back door [of the store] because we wanted to avoid any violence over the sneakers." Some sneakerheads will fly around the globe for a day, just to get their hands or feet on the latest model or special colorway. "That's part of the lifestyle," says Weekly Drop's Carvalho, who flew to the Netherlands for kicks. "I walked into Nike's [European] headquarters, saw what they had out, and asked the clerk, 'What do you got in the basement?' "The guy smiled and came back with six limited Air Force Ones. I got the three that were in my size," he adds. Collecting sneakers today is what collecting baseball cards was like in the '90s, says Heppler. You stand in line for a limited release sneaker for $100, then sell it for twice that. On any given day, eBay has up to 12,000 sneaker auctions. Dozens of other websites and online consignment shops could say the same. But some experts note that, unfortunately, the money spent by status seeking individuals on high priced shoes is often a significant portion of their income. "We worry about sneakers because it's a form of low status, status competition," he says. "High status people don't view Air Jordans as high status. The problem is a lot of people who can't afford it, do." Indeed, many sneakerheads would jump at the chance to own a pair of original, 1985 Air Jordan 1 sneakers the Holy Grail for many a collector valued at $5,000 or more if the original box, shoelaces, and packaging paper are intact. It's also true that many sneaker fans don't balk at spending $175 on a new pair of Jordan 21s (released in February) or $135 on retro Jordan 5s (released two weeks ago) as the most recent editions to the Jordan sneaker franchise. Not everyone agrees that wearing a fresh pair of shoes is all about status. With more than 350 million shoes sold annually around the world, "everyone's got to wear them," says Lori Lobenstine of the Boston based Female Sneaker Fiend, an online community of more than 3,400 female sneaker fans. She says kicks connect people of different cultures, races, ages, genders, and localities. Ms. Lobenstine and company are a minority in the male dominated sneaker game, but like many shoe enthusiasts male and female she got her sneaker schooling playing basketball as a kid. "I was always into high tops because that's what I wore on the court," she says. Today her collection of about 50 shoes is a mix of both high and low top sneakers, including her favorite, a pair of blue and orange Puma Californias "not because they're worth a lot," she says, "but because I just love the colors." To be a true sneakerhead, however, you need more than a flashy pair of shoes or a big collection, says Dee Wells, marketing director at Sole Collector magazine. You have to embrace the culture, one of music and movies. An early trendsetter in the sneaker culture was James Dean, says Mr. Wells. The 1950s movie actor's departure from slacks and boots to blue jeans and all white Converse Jack Purcell tennis shoes took sneakers which have been around since the late 1800s from functional to fashionable. Nike Roshe Run Men Volt Cool Grey ,Nike Roshe Run Men Obsidian Volt Men Nike Free Run 4.0 V2 Pure Platinum Reflect Silver Soar Blue Women Nike Free Run 3.0 Magenta Reflect Silver Pure Platinum Men Nike Free Run 2 Red White Black Men Nike Free Run 2 Green White Turquoise Nike Roshe Run Hyp Women Navy Dark Grey Nike Free Run 3.0 Prism Blue Reflect Silver Pure Platinum Women Nike Roshe Run Men Black Total Orange Men Nike Free Run 4.0 V2 Gym Red Reflect Silver Stealth Quilted NEW YORK Since 2003, I've tried several fitness accessories that use the GPS system to tell you how far and how fast you're running. I've generally liked them, except for the fact that they don't work well in big cities. Many runners I know have one of these devices usually a watch that gets signals from GPS satellites in the sky to calculate distance and speed. These don't offer street maps, the way GPS devices in cars do, but some models have rudimentary navigation features to help get you back to your starting point. Some also try to coach you they'll beep when you're going faster or slower than your specified target. Nike's $200 SportWatch GPS doesn't offer that. What you get instead is a simplified device that works exceptionally well in big cities, including my hometown New York. The problem with big cities is that tall buildings block some of the GPS signals. It might take 10 or 15 minutes for a device to find the signals, rather than just a minute or so elsewhere. As the weather gets colder, I'd prefer starting my run sooner and spending less time standing around outside waiting for the watch to activate. The SportWatch addresses these shortcomings in two important ways. As long as you plug the watch in to a computer regularly, using a standard USB port, it retrieves data that can help locate signals faster. It also has a backup system when no signal is available at all. The SportWatch comes with a small sensor that attaches to your shoe and measures the amount of time between footsteps and the time your foot is on the ground. The SportWatch picks up that information wirelessly and uses it to calculate pace and distance. With this backup, you can start your run before the SportWatch finds the GPS signals. The device works even when you're running through a tunnel or on the lower level of a bridge places GPS can't always reach. The SportWatch automatically goes back to using the more accurate GPS system once it gets signals again. Unfortunately, the backup sensor system is designed specifically for Nike shoes, which have slots built into them to hold the sensors. Runners can be quite particular about their shoes, and wrong ones can lead to injuries, as I've learned the hard way. The good news is that many running stores sell Velcro attachments for other shoes, though you won't find out about them in Nike's manuals. I've found in years of testing that these third party attachments don't work as well as Nike shoes, but a new auto calibration feature should reduce the errors in calculating distance and pace. The SportWatch, which incorporates a GPS receiver made by TomTom, has clear improvements over earlier models from Nike and others, though I stop short of giving it a ringing endorsement. I find that it tries to simplify too much and allows for little customization. Many of the settings can't be changed directly from the watch. You have to create an online account and download free software from Nike to make such adjustments from a computer. You also have to go online for details about runs you've just completed. Lots of data get recorded during your runs, but the device only presents a sliver. You get distance, average pace, the time it took and estimated calories burned (as long as you went into the computer settings and entered your weight). You also get how long it took for each split a point you manually record by tapping the watch's screen, be it the completion of a lap around a track or the hitting of a mile marker in a race. But the SportWatch doesn't give you pace, distance and calorie information for each split, as many other devices do. Nor does it give you elevation and other metrics on the watch, as some competing devices do. Nike Roshe Run Men Volt Cool Grey,Your hands and feet are important in mountain biking as in many other sports. The gloves and shoes you wear offer protection against the challenges of the terrain you face, and boost your ability to manoeuvre through any course. Here's an essential guide to the various types of mountain bike gloves and shoes available. There are three main types of MTB gloves: Downhill / Freeride: These gloves offer serious protection against direct hits from terrain obstacles and flying debris. Downhill gloves typically offer such features as carbon fiber knuckles and forefingers, and scrub guards on the palms (useful for those eventual crashes). XC: Cross country gloves are lightweight and provide basic protection and normal gripping ability. Some brands offer gel padding which provides comfort during long rides and help riders who are prone to numbness in their hands. All Mountain: These gloves fall in between the above two categories. They are for riders who tackle above normal terrains and need gloves with good protective components. With mountain bike gloves you have a choice between full fingered or half fingered gloves. There isn't a consensus as to which is better, so it boils down to personal preference. Fans of the half fingered gloves like that they have the natural grip of their fingers for controlling braking, and also tout the gloves' ability to keep their hands cool and dry. The main component of mountain bike gloves is either leather or synthetic leather, which are both durable enough to withstand the rigors of the sport. Other synthetic materials are also incorporated to increase the gloves' flexibility, breathability and comfort. These synthetic materials include nylon, polyester, PVC rubber, cotton, Lycra and Spandex. Once you've figured out what type of MTB pedals you put on your bike (flat, toe cage or clipless), you'll need to find the corresponding shoes. There are two main types of MTB shoes: Downhill / Freeride Shoes: Also referred to as "platform shoes," these shoes work with flat pedals so riders can instantly or frequently take their foot off the pedal. They provide stiffer ankle support than regular MTB shoes, and integrate toughened toe caps and rugged treads. Off Road Shoes: This is the general category for mountain bike shoes. These shoes are for toe cage and clipless pedals. Unlike platform shoes, off road shoes have more of a cleat type of treading which is necessary for walking through tough terrain or climbing steep trails. Most downhill MTB shoes use regular shoelaces. Some incorporate a lace shield to prevent debris getting in, and to keep your laces from tangling with the pedal gears or spokes. Off road shoes generally stick to using straps or include a combination with buckles or laces. Ensure you wear the proper size shoe and the shoe is snugly tightened. Mountain bike shoes are made from leather and/or a variety of synthetic materials. Your shoes should be water repellent, breathable and be able to withstand tearing, scratching and whatever abuse you encounter on the trails. Mountain bike shoes are becoming lighter and lighter without compromising durability. The perfect pair of shoes have flexible soles that are comfortable to walk or hike in, yet rigid enough to optimally transfer power from your foot to the pedal. Most off road shoes reinforce the midsole with fiberglass, carbon or other stiff and lightweight material. Good quality mountain bike gloves and sure fit mountain bike shoes will definitely keep your hands and feet happy. With the right gear you'll be able to focus entirely on reaching the end of that grueling trail. Happy riding!
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