Sneaker fanatics who lined up outside stores overnight got their first crack Friday at a new outer-space themed Nike basketball shoe, getting so unruly in some cities that police were called to restore order.
In Orlando, Fla., more than 100 deputies in riot gear quelled a crowd awaiting the release of the $220 Foamposite Galaxy. In at a mall in Hyattsville, Md., one person was arrested for disorderly conduct. And in Greenwood, Ind., police said they canceled a Nike release after 400-600 people showed up Thursday night at a mall and were “panicking to get to the front of the line.” The shoe’s release coincides with this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game in Orlando.
The shoes, part of a space-themed collection, are a draw for so-called “sneakerheads” who collect signature sports footgear and can resell it online at a marked-up price, sometimes for hundreds more than retail.
Malls in Florida, New York and Maryland reported bringing in police to manage fans clamoring for the purple and blue shoes, which have star-like flecks of white. Some shoppers lucky enough to get their hands on a pair immediately posted them for sale on eBay at skyrocketing prices: $1,000 and up.
Authorities did have some warning the shoe could cause mayhem. Earlier this month, police were called to a mall outside Albany after pushing and shoving broke out during a promotional event for the shoe.
Orlando resident Gaby Llanos was in the crowd waiting to buy two pairs of the shoes when the rush started outside Florida Mall.
“It was complete havoc,” said Llanos, 23. “People were running and hiding in trees so the police wouldn’t find them.”
Nike issued a statement Friday, saying, “As with the launch of all Nike products, consumer safety and security is of paramount importance. We encourage anyone wishing to purchase our product to do so in a respectful and safe manner.”
Nike spokesman Matthew Kneller said the Nike store in New York City immediately sold out Friday. The shoes were also quickly out of stock in Cambridge, Mass., where people began lining up outside a House of Hoops by Foot Locker at 3 p.m. Thursday. The store only had 12 pairs of the shoes, however, so it handed out tickets to the first dozen people in line, and only those people waited, store manager Terrio Lakes said.
The shoes — which are being sold at Nike stores and select Foot Lockers, House of Hoops and Foot Action stores — are part of the Nike’s Foamposite line which originally debuted in 1998. Their outer space theme is a nod to Florida, the host state for the All-Star game, and the longtime launching pad for the nation’s space program.
Nike has relied for years on its limited edition sneakers to generate a lot of buzz with minimal advertising.
“They keep them very limited, they keep them very hot that way,” said Sam Poser, an analyst who covers Nike and the shoe industry.
During the past holiday season, Poser noted similar fights and incidents broke out across the country over a retro model of Air Jordan sneakers. And he said the most recent violence likely won’t hurt Nike’s image.
“Some press is better than no press,” he said.
In Hyattsville, Md., Geoffrey Neshkes, 30, said had waited at The Mall at Prince Georges since Wednesday, hoping to get a pair of the Galaxy shoes and other new limited edition sneakers. But the mall ultimately told patrons the shoes would not be released because of the crowd, which Neshkes estimated in the hundreds.
Neshkes, an auto mechanic, said he has been collecting sneakers for more than a decade.
“This is by far the craziest it has gotten,” he said. After the rapper Wale wore the shoes on the Conan O’Brien show earlier this month, Neshkes said, the buzz got even more intense.
Neshkes didn’t totally lose out. He said he actually bought a pair of Galaxy shoes a few weeks ago from an online store that had a limited quantity. He paid between $800 and $1000 but said he wanted a second pair so he could wear one and add the other to his sneaker collection.
“I’m a dedicated person. I want these shoes,” he said.
Sneakerheads collect anything from Air Jordans to shoes created for modern-day basketball stars.
“We talk sneakers like you would talk sports,” says Jesus Estrella, a website developer in suburban Chicago who has a site about “sneaker culture” that also advises readers how to avoid counterfeit shoes.
“Everyone thinks that every shoe (being released) is THE shoe,” he says. “Everyone thinks they can get rich.”
But he’s not sure that’s necessarily the case.