Saturday, December 10, 2005

Neverending shoe supply

Doug Haller
The Arizona Republic

The request comes before tip-off, from one side of the locker room or the other. It's always the same. Someone needs new shoes. Pronto. Right away.

So back goes the Suns equipment manager, back inside a dark room in America West Arena, where almost every player has a dozen pairs of shoes waiting to be plucked off the shelf.

High school basketball players get one or two pairs of high-tops per season. College players might go through a half-dozen if they're lucky.

The Suns' supply is nearly endless. They go through sneakers like the rest of us go through tissue, useful one day, useless the next.

"Sometimes you just want that snug feeling on your feet," Shawn Marion said. "When you wear the same shoes for a while, they have a tendency to loosen up. The new ones are real tight and crisp. That's the feeling you want."

Marion replaces his shoes every two or three games. Amaré Stoudemire does the same when he's healthy. Steve Nash may stick with the same pair for four games, five at the most.

Their reasoning stems from comfort to superstition to availability. Most of these guys have shoe contracts, after all. If the cookie jar is full, why not partake? Almost everyone else does.

Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal laces up new shoes every other game. Teammate Jeff Foster changes every three or four contests, unless he's playing well. Then he'll stay loyal to his game shoes for one week, maybe two.

Former Suns guard Dan Majerle followed the same logic. If he was shooting well, the shoes stayed. If not, he chucked them.

"Out the window," said Majerle, who was kept well stocked by Nike. "Sometimes after one game."

Of course, that doesn't always work. Toronto's Jalen Rose changed shoes after opening the season with a few losses. But the Raptors kept losing, forcing Rose to extreme measures.

"You start 0-9, you're changing everything," he said. "Shoes, socks, jock . . . You change up the little things that the world may not notice, but mentally, you as an athlete, you know."

It's tradition
This isn't anything new. Suns assistant coach Marc Iavaroni said Adrian Dantley wore new shoes for every game in the early 1980s. According to published reports, Patrick Ewing did the same, going through nearly 100 pairs one season.

"I've heard that (Michael) Jordan changed shoes every game," said Jay Gaspar, Suns equipment manager. "Jason Kidd changed quite a bit while he was here, and I think Charles Barkley changed almost every game."

As a result, Gaspar keeps the cupboard full. Each Suns player has three bins in the equipment room. Gaspar tries to have eight pairs of home (white) shoes and away (black) shoes reserved for each player at all times.

He figures the Suns went through at least 200 pairs last season. Was it wasteful? The Suns don't think so. Just look at how much running and cutting they do, said James Jones, who changes every three games.

"When you run so much and you're pounding and pounding, shoes aren't meant to take that," Jones said. "It feels good to start out a game with a fresh pair of kicks."

Marion agreed.

"I play so hard I mess them up," he said. "You go out there and you jam your toes. You mess up your toenails. Then you feel like you have to change."

An exception is Eddie House, who hates breaking in new sneakers, so he sticks with the same pair for about a month. Raja Bell wears a Nike model that is no longer made, so he tries to conserve them as much as possible, changing every six games.

"I go longer than I like," he said. "It's just the older you get, the more your feet start to hurt. And when a shoe is stretched, it's kind of hard to be functional in it. It's not giving you what you need."

Then there's Pat Burke. All he does is run and up down the court, from one post area to the other. He rarely cuts. He rarely drives the lane. He rarely needs new shoes.

"I wear them until something busts on them," he said. "(Unless) the sole busts or the shoelaces bust, there's no point in me changing shoes all the time. To me, it's silly."


  1. Wow. And to think that I have been wearing the same Nike's for almost 5 years now. They have been through 2 pregnancies, countless aerobic sessions and trips to the gym, and 4 trips to Disneyland. I know I need new ones, but I didn't know I needed them THAT bad. Besides, I like the way I can take them off and put them on without untieing them.

  2. They're still cool for casual stuff, but you can do real damage to yourself trying to use shoes that old for athletic activity.

    I'm no athlete, but I change my shoes pretty often, and I tend to stockpile, but you already knew that :-)