I have mates that collect lots of different things; vinyl, magazines, stamps – the list goes on. But there seems to be some sort of separate stigma between collecting these other items and snagging haul after haul of sneakers. Sneakers are looked after so meticulously, kept in their boxes away from natural light while they slowly accrue value, that it supersedes any other obsessive form of collecting. For some people, this is because of the nostalgic and historical value that these limited release shoes have on them and for others, it’s due to the lucrative value that sneakers can reach down the track if they’re kept in good nick. If this sounds like you, you might want to take heed; those beloved shoes tucked away in your cupboard may well be a ticking time bomb.
The potential problem with your collection is due to the use of a chemical compound, Polyurethane (PU), as a shock absorbing foam sandwiched between the outer and upper sole. The issue is that this compound PU has a limited lifespan, one that is often outlived while these kicks sit in storage. Nagomo Oji, a Japanese collector, thought he stumbled upon a gold mine when he found a pair of original Air Max 95s for sale in Tokyo. These shoes, in mint condition, have a rough value of ¥200,000 (that’s over $2000 AUD). After placing his feet in them and taking one step, the PU foam had collapsed from underneath him, rendering his $2000 Air Max 95s a worthless floor omelette of foam and stitching.
The limited lifespan of PU foam unfortunately isn’t a freak occurrence, it’s something affecting a lot of sneakerheads. Even the Guinness World Record “Largest collection of sneakers/trainers” recipient Jordan Geller recently cited that PU’s limited shelf life was a determining factor in him selling off the majority of his collection recently. Sadly, there isn’t all too much you can do to save your sneakers from this destiny down the track since the two things that deteriorate the condition of PU most are water and air (which there’s probably a lot of in your house). It will be interesting to see how the sneaker community react to this more frequent problem in the future. There is already a increasing use of pedantic sneaker repairers that go to great lengths (and costs) to carefully take apart and revive these sneakers to increase their longevity. One thing’s for certain, make the most of your sneakers as they may not be the same in a matter of years.