We’ve all been there before. We see news of an upcoming sneaker release hit the web. We like it enough that we would actually be willing to pay our hard-earned money to own it. But then reality sets in. We don’t have a bot. There’s a pretty miniscule chance we will even get the opportunity to plug in our card information on time let alone check out successfully. We already begin to forecast the pair’s resell value. Some form of the phrase, “This shoe is great, but it’s just going to be another L,” is likely uttered.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way any time a big sneaker release we wanted was approaching? What if we had the tools to secure a drop short of spending money on a bot of our own or shelling out resell price? We could at least feel that we were given a fair shot at obtaining a big name collab and not just victim to the bots that are scooping up dozens of pairs at once to flip on the aftermarket. For SoleSavy the goal, at least in part, is to help fans of sneakers do just that.

If you have been perusing the sneaker internet the past few months, you have definitely seen the name SoleSavy at least a few times. The Vancouver-based startup launched in 2018 with a mission to “build the sneaker community of tomorrow.” The community is mainly operated through a series of Slack channels populated by members chatting about tips for how to buy sneakers, conducting trades, assisting fellow members in securing their latest pair of shoes, and more. The company’s first big boost came at the top of 2021 when it received $2 million in funding to bolster its platform. More recently, the subscription-based service, founded by Kicks Deals founder Dejan Pralica and Justin Dusanj, made headlines for its $12.5 million Series A Funding. With the money, SoleSavy promises current and future subscribers even more improvements over the next five years, such as integration across even more countries worldwide. Pralica says one of the main focuses is the launch of a peer-to-peer marketplace its members will have access to. He notes that unlike other marketplaces, it will have no transactional fees attached to it.

“As a subscriber, the marketplace is part of the product and of the experience, and we’re not looking to collect any type of revenue off of that,” he tells Complex. “I believe sneakerheads just want to buy, sell, and trade stuff to buy more sneakers and not profit off of it. That’s what the core collectors and core enthusiasts look like.”

On paper, SoleSavy seems like a great idea. I mean, come on, we all know how stressful it is to buy sneakers these days. So a platform that provides tools to aid in the process of copping some new sneakers sounds like something you want to be a part of. Think of it sort of like a cook group for the everyman to level the playing field just a bit between full-time bot-wielding resellers and the regular Joe who wants to cop a pair of Dunks on Friday morning. “SoleSavy aims to solve the current challenges of the sneaker industry—one that has evolved from people enjoying their passion to being exploited for profit,” said co-founder and CEO Pralica in an official press release announcing the company’s most recent funding.

It’s a noble enough goal to want to restore the feeling of being able to buy sneakers at retail, to care less about profit and more about just loving shoes, but is it possible to deter a sea of bot resellers from scooping up the stock of every big release? More importantly, do the benefits justify the monthly fee? Two plans are currently offered, a monthly or yearly subscription. A monthly subscription will run you $33 a month, while a yearly membership costs $27.50 per month (a yearly savings of $66). There is a waitlist for the monthly option at the moment, so anyone eager to jump right in will have to commit to a yearly membership for the time being. 

But is it worth it to join SoleSavy? For the past few months, I have been using the platform to get a better feel for how it works.

Upon joining SoleSavy, you gain access to a Slack populated by channels dedicated to various aspects of the sneaker community. There are threads that track new releases from Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Jordan, and Yeezy. Each provides dedicated pre-cart links for each size and the amount of pairs of each that are loaded on a particular site when applicable. For instance, if you want to cop a size 11 in the latest Dunk colorway from a particular store’s website, clicking a pre-cart link will automatically redirect you to the site with the items already added to your cart, which can save you the precious seconds needed to buy certain releases these days. It’s a helpful tool that makes copping a shoe a breeze and increases your chances ever so slightly. It’s also eye-opening to see just how many general release sneakers are really releasing on any given day that don’t always get the same press as big name collaborations. 

SoleSavy Pre-Cart
An example of a pre-cart listing in the SoleSavy Slack channel. Image via SoleSavy

Some channels provide links to raffles from dozens of stores ahead of bigger releases. For me specifically, this became a very helpful tool. I’d consider myself a casual sneaker consumer. I don’t usually scour social media tracking down every raffle. Frankly, I don’t always have the time or patience to do so. Sometimes I even forget to set my alarm on drop days for sneakers I actually want. But with this feature I came across raffles I may not have seen or even known about otherwise that (at least theoretically) upped my chances at copping a shoe like the “What the P-Rod” Nike SB Dunks or A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 3s. I tuned into chats during certain releases to see how other users fared that particular morning. As I quickly found out, these mostly boiled down to a handful of excited “Got ‘em” notifications and plenty of disappointed customers holding their Ls. It’s the same type of reaction you might see scrolling through Twitter a few minutes after a big release.

Other threads in the Slack channel aim to cultivate a real community among SoleSavy’s users. And they seem to be working. Members can post their collections, photos of what they laced up for the day, conduct trades, and even request assists on pairs they are particularly fond of, which looks to have been a useful tool for other users as the community includes a decent amount of members willing to help out when they can. What I can relate the experience to most is the buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook that I used to frequent back in high school. It’s proof that the communal aspect of sneakers is still very much intact if you can get past all of the resell groups and aftermarket prices. Not everyone is eager to flip the pair they scored off SNKRS or start a business. Some people just love sneakers. It feels weird to have to say that. But it’s refreshing to see evidence of it in such a concentrated environment. 

In order to maintain a feeling of intimacy despite having roughly 8,000 members, this number is split into 10 independent Slack channels. There are also currently dedicated Canadian and women’s only groups. Pralica says even as the member number grows, the goal is to keep channels in the 1,000 member range, but acknowledges that regional Slacks, broken down by state for example, could launch at some point.

“I feel that to do community properly online, there needs to be a cap and a process to make it feel intimate and actually feel like a community, because I don’t think you can do community at volume,” Pralica says. “For it to feel fun and for you to feel invested in [the community], you need to feel like your voice is heard. As soon as that number gets too large, there’s factors of intimidation. Is this the right opinion? Is anyone going to respond to me?” 

SoleSavy User
A SoleSavy member’s Slack post about his successful sneaker purchase. Image via SoleSavy

One thing you won’t find on SoleSavy is reselling. Well, at least not for the aftermarket prices you have become accustomed to on platforms like StockX or GOAT. Sales are permitted, but only for retail price or less. If you catch a post at the right time, you can definitely come up on some steals. I’ve seen everything from Yeezys to Air Jordan 11s listed in this thread selling for their original retail prices. So this is certainly something to keep your eyes on if you are interested in copping some gems. While you probably won’t score any Off-White or Travis Scott collabs here, it is still nice to know you can cop some good pairs if you miss them on drop day without blowing a paycheck.

SoleSavy does its best to aid in this, too. There’s a members-only marketplace that offers a random assortment of sneakers for retail after they have sold out elsewhere that’s included pairs like “Raging Bull” 5s and “Freshwater” Griffeys. “Raging Bulls” don’t flip for too much over their $190 box price, while the “Freshwater” Griffeys go for nearly double their $170 retail price, so some of the perks are definitely a bit more enticing to take advantage of than others. There are also semi-regular raffles for recent releases, like the “Neutral Grey” Air Jordan 1 Low for instance, that allow a select number of lucky subscribers to buy them at box price.

In May, the platform responded to the reselling controversy surrounding the Nike Go FlyEase. In the wake of complaints about the shoes not going to those who could use them practically and instead ending up in the hands of resellers, the platform bought 40-50 pairs at resale prices and sold them for retail to people who could really use them. While it would have been nice to see them given away, the intention was at least there. 

Nike Go FlyEase CW5883 100 Lateral
Image via Nike

Along with the robust Slack channel, subscribers get access to the SoleSavy site (and app), which is home to more resources. SoleSavy employees host frequent webinars to help new users better understand the platform. There’s even dedicated step-by-step courses, complete with cumulative quizzes, to better understand online releases with tips for Captchas, password-protected sites on release day, and more. Especially big releases even get special webinars solely focused on prep for that particular drop. The A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 3s were one such instance of this. While fully speculative on how the release will actually be handled, these types of things do offer some idea of what you might need to navigate to score your pair. SoleSavy even offers a checkout tool to simulate putting your newly learned tips to the test. The idea is to practice your method to improve your speed and succeed in checking out manually like it’s some sort of NFL combine drill.

In my opinion, it’s incredibly silly that this is what it takes just to own a pair of sneakers in 2021 and that I am being encouraged to up my clickthrough speed like some sort of Olympian just to buy shoes. Given all of the things you need to do to up your odds, it’s almost enticing to spend around $100 over retail to avoid the headache of it all in some cases. I’d be paying the same amount of money to use the service for three months anyway. But I guess considering these intricate methods are what it takes to combat bots, at least there is a platform committed to helping out anyone who may not be the most technologically inclined or actually does want to go through the time trials to up their proficiency.

What’s important to note here is that, despite the positive community and ample tools provided by the SoleSavy platform, there is still no way to truly guarantee that you actually cop the shoes you want. While I took advantage of raffle links and pre-cart practice, I still personally only copped the Undefeated “Dunk vs. AF1” pack using the pre-cart methods. Given this drop sat around for a bit in comparison to some other releases, I can’t even really fully credit it to SoleSavy’s techniques even though I used them. Other drops like the “What the P-Rod” SB Dunks, A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 3s, and “Bacon” Air Max 90s didn’t yield the same results though. Is my low success rate SoleSavy’s fault? No. You can’t guarantee a raffle win. Pralica knows this too. 

“There’s a certain amount of things we can do. I liken it to, ‘we can train everyone for the Olympics, but only a couple of people can win a medal,’ right? It’s out of our hands,” says Pralica, who notes that despite its tool to aid in the process, the company currently has no way to track the success rate of its users who are using the methods. “The primary focus of what we really do right now is in that community pillar: interaction, engagement, and education.”

SoleSavy Raffle
An example of a raffle listing in the SoleSavy Slack channel. Image via SoleSavy

Unfortunately, many of the biggest releases are executed through raffles these days, so sometimes the guides and prep feels all for naught. If you are expecting to fill your closet with every pair you want once you join then you will be pretty disappointed. Bots still exist. There are still thousands of individuals vying for every single hyped-up collab that hits the market. It is very possible that you could take all of SoleSavy’s courses, enter every raffle at your disposal, set your alarms on release day, and still walk away with an L. 

What SoleSavy certainly doesn’t lack is content. There’s plenty of it to keep you busy. But depending on your day-to-day schedule it can sometimes feel like too much. Your job’s tasks take precedence. You have a dinner with some friends to attend. It’s fair to say most people aren’t staring at the SoleSavy Slack all day. Life happens. But if you step away, diving back into it can be a bit disorienting at times. There are too many messages and new links to fully survey every single new nugget of information. In some cases if you are away long enough messages can even be fully inaccessible if they are old enough, unless you up your payment plan. If you are someone who can dedicate ample hours to scrolling through, the results are probably more fruitful. But at least from my own personal experience, sometimes it just felt a bit overwhelming to keep track of throughout the flow of a usual work day or a couple of hours away from an electronic device.

At the end of the day, SoleSavy’s is a great mission that just doesn’t seem like it can fully be accomplished as things stand. We all want the same limited sneaker collabs and no amount of practice is going to increase my chances of me being randomly picked for a raffle. Yes, I can enter more of them to up my odds. But the outcome is still often at the mercy of a randomly generated drawing. The intent is there, but it’s more like wishful thinking than a guarantee. The only real solution here is more than likely never going to happen: the brands themselves producing enough pairs to fully meet the demand. 

SoleSavy
A SoleSavy member thanking another user for helping them purchase their new sneakers. Image via SoleSavy

Where SoleSavy succeeds though is in its community building. You will meet some new people that share your passion for sneakers. Who knows? Maybe that new friend on the opposite coast you have made a connection with will look out for you down the line and vice versa. Yes, similar connections can be made through online forums free of charge, but for some making those initial connections can be easier said than done. Plus, that shouldn’t take away from the solid group of people that the service has attracted thus far. But when it comes to what, let’s be honest, is SoleSavy’s biggest draw—actually securing these hard-to-get sneakers—it’s something that is impossible to guarantee. If you are a super casual buyer or new to collecting, you will learn some valuable tools of the trade that might help. Are there other individuals who have had much more success scoring pairs than I have? Probably. But at worst, you are paying a service to get to the same outcome, the disappointment of not getting the shoes you wanted, that you could have had for free. And as more people join, suddenly we all have the same upperhand. And back to square one we go. 

Is there value in a membership? I’d say it’s certainly at least worth a month-long test run to see for yourself. But it becomes tougher to justify when the Ls I was accumulating without the $330/year membership fee are still there with them. As it stands, there are still too many hurdles that the service (or anyone really) cannot provide a remedy for. Is it a necessity to be a SoleSavy member if you are into sneakers? Not really. Is there some knowledge to be gained and fun to be had for some? Yes. And it does at least appear like they will be doing what they can to evolve moving forward rather than remaining idle. 

“Things have changed a lot in the last five years, and the last thing I want to hear is people who come to us and go, ‘Man, I’m really losing hope. I don’t enjoy sneakers anymore,’ and I hate to hear that from people, and that’s what really drives us as a company,” says Pralica. “It’s like, how do we change that? How do we fix that? What do we have to do? Man, TBD? That’s a big question, but we’re going to work towards it, because we have customers who care and we have the capital to be able to try and fail and try and fail and figure it out.”