Sneakerheads and the allure of comfy footwear

Sneaker collecting is growing in popularity in Edmonton with some aficionados spending tens of thousands of dollars on the comfy footwear.

Edmonton collectors are opening up their wallets to get in on the trend

Noble Bains, Robin Nanad Ke Wang browse the sneaker display at Foosh on Whyte Avenue. (CBC)

From high-tops to polished leather, Noble Bains' can't kick his obsession with sneakers.

Since he started collecting the comfy footwear, he amassed 200 pairs of the comfy footwear.

But just your average loafer won't satisfy this self-proclaimed 'sneakerhead.' 

"What it means to actually be a quote-unquote 'sneakerhead' is just to appreciate every style," said the 27-year old. 

Bains is part of a growing culture of sneaker collectors in Edmonton. Many of them are friends, after spending hours lining up for the latest releases of special-edition shoes. That's how Bains and Ke Wang met. 

Wang, 23, began collecting sneakers about 10 years ago. 

"I think I got it from the passion about basketball," he says, recalling how having the latest gear was a must. "I remember my parents usually bought me a pair of basketball shoes once a year during Chinese New Year." 

Now, Wang has more than 100 pairs of sneakers. 

Collection worth over $35,000

The habit isn't easy on the checkbook, says 22-year-old Robin Nanad, who estimates his sneaker collection to be worth between $35,000 and $40,000. 

Nanad is downsizing his collection in order to pay for his final year of study at the University of Alberta.

Collecting sneakers isn't just about the buying the latest model or eye-catching pattern, he says.
The Air Jordan III Black/Cement Grey (Solecollector)

"Some have different colorways," Nanad says, referencing models that come out in different colour schemes. "Sometimes those colorways have a really significant background."

Take the Jordan Black-Cement III, for example. 

"It's one of the original Jordans. Back with the Jordan II came out, (basketball star Michael) Jordan almost left the Jordan brand, but as soon as the (Black-Cement III) came out, it actually saved him," Nanad says. "Every shoe has a different history to it." 

Patrick Zubiri, who manages the store Foosh on Whyte Avenue, says in the past three years sneaker sales have really taken off. 

"Celebrities are getting on to the fact that there are sneakers out there," Zubiri says. "Girls are now realizing that they don't have to wear flats or boots anymore, they can wear sneakers." 

Sneakerhead Jessica Van Zanten is happy to ditch her heels, to lace up instead. 

"You can be a little girly, but you can also be a bit of a tomboy so it's a good in between."