Sneaker Reconstructions - Is It Worth It?

       I am in the midst of my busiest time since I took the deep dive into Custom Footwear.  I currently have 8 pairs of custom shoe paintjobs, 2 pairs of cleats, and 2 Motorcycle Helmets.  The stress to create outside of my day job (nights and weekends) and meet deadlines is creating a lot of anxiety in my head.  On top of all that, I have a loving and supportive wife and a 4-year-old in T-ball.  We spent last weekend with my son Channing and daughter Lola in Northern Minnesota for their Spring Break.  To say life is moving at lightspeed for us is an understatement. 

      Ultimately, my work on shoes led to the helmets and I’m sure once that is done, more helmet work will follow.  I also saw a video of a guy that bought a van at Auction for $200 that he repaired and custom painted.  I’m intrigued…mobile advertising…I digress.

      I started this post because I am planning to expand my skill set into "decons" and "recons".  Work from guys like The Shoe Surgeon, Michael Griffin at Hometown Heet (@HometownHeet), and SD Customs have peeked my interest in the skill of custom shoe building.  I have done painting exclusively on my last 40+ pairs and now want to have the skill of creating a shoe from the sole up.


     This is normally done by purchasing a donor/ base shoe and separating the outsoles from the uppers with solvent based materials and heat (to loosen the cement/glue).  The outsole will be the only remaining part of the donor shoe when doing a custom build.  But here’s where capital investment comes in to play.  Shoe Patterns, Lasts, equipment (sewing machine, tools) and materials are all needed to make this work, but at a cost:

Donor Shoes:                                                 $200+

Shoe Patterns(by size & shoe):                    $400+

Lasts (by size & shoe):                                  $100

Sewing Machine:                                            $200

Tools:                                                               $200+


Internal Parts:                                         $100+

Leathers/Outters:                                   $200+

Minimal Startup cost for1 pair of shoes     $1,400+

      Yeah, I guess on the bright side I will have the patterns, tools, and some scraps that I could probably pull off the same size/model shoe again for about $550.  Yikes!  That’s a much larger investment than I expected.  Yet, I have the desire to push on and see what I can do.

      Over the next few months, I will be building out my equipment and tools backed by the profits of my Custom Paint Jobs so making the $1,400 investment all at the same time won’t hurt so much.  I’m also Just dropped some merchandise sales to help get me there.  Selling T-Shirts, Hoodies, Coffee Mugs, and Tumblers advertising my brand will help pad the finances to be able to make this investment a little more palatable. 

      I dabbled in Custom Hats early on in my Shoe journey to bridge the gap between shoe customers before I had enough content to prove myself to potential customers.  I had an Etsy store and had all my custom shoes on there, but quickly decided that wasn’t the business I wanted to be in.  I had a dozen of my custom shoe examples on there and the only two pairs I sold were the “Horror Force 1s” (color changing) and a Leopard print Air Max 90.   

      Truthfully, I only sold the Horror Force 1s.  I had a guy buy the Airmax90s off Etsy and when they came up in my que to get started, I reached out to the buyer to let them no I was starting and would be able to ship earlier than expected.  [Always under promise and over deliver].  I stripped the factory finish off the shoe and weeded the leopard print stencil that I would eventually paint over.  The night before I laid the paint, he messaged me and asked “Are these ‘factory’ from Nike?”

      Whew, I explained to him that these were listed as “custom” and referred him to the name of my store “Wade Custom Shoe Company.”  He claimed that he wasn’t aware they were custom.  I begrudgingly gave him a full refund because I was able to return the shoes.  But that sealed the deal for me selling my shoe work on Etsy.  Not anymore. I guess the one positive from that experience is that someone actually thought my shoes were factory so that tells me the work was decent.

      I have generated most of my sales by posting progress pictures of my current projects (follow my Instagram and Facebook accounts @WadeCustomShoeCo and @WadeCustomDesigns ).  I generated another lead while killing time in a Target parking lot with my son.  I always travel with business cards and this time paid off.  I was delivering a pair of Buffalo plaid Airmax 90s to my buddy Jason. 

Jason was headed south for Daytona Bike Week and I had some time to kill before the meet up.  Carolina was playing Duke that day (we won!) so I wore my Custom UNC Air Jordan 1s.  A guy was walking out to parking lot and complimented me on my shoes.  I dropped him a couple business cards and then we headed on our way.

                About four or days later, he called and said he looked through my entire Instagram account and wanted to see if I could do a pair of shoes based on the TV Show “Snowfall.”  I said yes, and just like that I have another lead.  Advertising and wearing my artwork are the best ways to get the conversation started about new projects.  It makes me want to take every shoe in my lineup and do something unique with it. 

                But now, Painting isn’t enough.  With Bots dominating the hype sneaker drops due to the resell market, it’s even harder to cop the sneakers that I want.  So, why not make them, right?

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