On February 13 I purchased a pair of limited release shoes online, the Air Jordan 4 Retro 'Cement', an extremely well-loved shoe in one of its most sought after colorways. A week later I was one of the lucky few to land a pair of the incredibly popular Pirate Black Yeezy Boost 350's as part of Adidas' limited online restock. Acquiring both of these pairs was a frustrating, time consuming process as I had to compete with thousands of other potential buyers for a very limited number of shoes.
I got the Jordans through Nike's usually awesome SNKRS app, but only after fighting through massive loading delays, error messages, failures to process my credit card information and my size (11) ostensibly being out of stock for about 30 minutes. The whole process took about an hour, and I began it the moment they were made available for purchase.
Trying to get the Yeezy's was worse. I spent about 45 minutes attempting to fight through the overloaded websites of major sneaker retailers Footlocker, Footaction, Eastbay and Champs at about 6 am before realizing that I had missed the boat. I tried again at the 8 am launch on Adidas and was fortunate enough to fight through the overwhelming web traffic locking me out of Adidas' website. Once in I was held up at the cart, which tried to tell me the shoe was out of stock for about half an hour. I got those Yeezys after persisting through various websites for about two and a half hours.
I was lucky enough to score pairs of these shoes over literally thousands–or in the Yeezy's case, probably tens of thousands–of other buyers because I approached these purchases with a game plan.
There are many steps you can take to increase your chance of getting a pair of limited release sneakers for their retail price, either online or in person.
Now is a good time to prepare, as 2016 is gearing up to be a big year. High profile retros have been announced for the Air Jordan 11 "Space Jam"–a shoe whose release drives fans to tear one another limb from limb in Bacchanal frenzy–and the Air Jordan 3 "True Blue," the first Jordan 3 since 2014. Alongside those will be dozens of other cool, unique sneakers that will only be available at retail price for a limited amount of time.
Here's how to get a leg up on the competition.
First, know what you are looking for. Don't find out about these sweet Cherry Blossom Dunk Hi's three months after Nike runs out of stock. If you have to follow one website for news updates, sneaker culture Mecca Nice Kicks or one of their various social media presences is an excellent place to start for news and updates. It wouldn't hurt to follow your favorite brands' social media accounts for updates either.
Second, do your homework. Trying to buy an extremely popular sneaker online is like applying for law or medical school: get in a moment late and your chances are in the dirt. Make sure you know what day and time the shoes go on sale and the retailers that will be carrying them, both online and in store.
If you're planning on buying online, set your alarm for a time before the shoe goes on sale, as the most popular releases will frequently be sold out within the hour. Have an account set up with all of the retailers that will be carrying the shoe. Have your autofill information for your address and credit card information set up. The internet is floating on a sea of a stories about the pair of Red Octobers that got away because some poor guy got cart jacked spending 45 seconds inputting their card number. If using SNKRS, make sure you have Touch ID enabled. Every second counts when you are dealing with ultra-popular releases, so make sure you understand how the checkout process for each website works.
If using a physical retailer, make sure to ask plenty of questions about the pair in question. How many pairs will the store have? Will they have pairs in your size, and how many? What time do they open? Are they expecting high demand? Are they allowing lines to form prior to opening or inside the store? Get as much information about the release as the store will give you and use it to your advantage. If you have a rapport with an employee, try to get them to set aside a pair for you. To paraphrase 16th century English playwright John Lyly, all is fair in shoes and war.
Third, be patient. Online purchases for high-demand releases will be tense affairs that reward persistence and commitment. An enormous spike in traffic will do all kinds of weird things to a website. You may be told that your size or even all pairs are out of stock. You may be presented with a seemingly interminable stream of error messages and/or loading screens. As in my case with the Yeezys, you may simultaneously be told that your pair is in stock while receiving an error message telling you to remove all items that are out of stock from your cart before proceeding to checkout. It may take up to or over an hour, but if you stick to it there is a good chance you will get what you came for.