ARTICLE BY Minh Vuong

From the Feet Up Customs Paints Personalised Pairs for the Cycling World

fromthefeetupcustoms Off-White Air Jordan 1 Cycling Shoe

Custom colourways and artful shoes are a staple of the sneakersphere and sporting field. For Matthew Ralph, aka fromthefeetupcustoms, he’s bringing the world of airbrushed Airs and heritage homages to the peloton. As it turns out, the demand for personalised cycling shoes has Ralph putting his airbrush in the big ring! Here’s what he has to say about the scene.

fromthefeetupcustoms Matthew Ralph
Matthew Ralph aka @fromthefeetupcustoms

When did you first recognise a growing market for custom cycling shoes?
Around five years ago, work by a customiser called ArtfulKicks kept popping up on my Facebook feed. Although I never felt I would become a cycling shoe customiser at the time, I did think to myself, ‘This is a nice niche market.'

I approached a few people within cycling clubs and asked if I could customise their shoes in exchange for the cost of materials only. Within a few customs, I had people offering to pay full price and things went from there.

At the start of 2021, I customised a pair of Specialized S-Works cycling shoes for racing driver Gustavo Menezes to match his PUMA driving shoes. After posting them on Instagram, I started getting requests for other cycling shoes with my own spin on them based on existing sneakers, and it hasn't stopped ever since.

fromthefeetupcustoms Kobe 4 Wizenard Cycling Shoe
Kobe 4 'Wizenard'
fromthefeetupcustoms Kobe 8 What The Cycling Shoe
Kobe 8 'What The'
fromthefeetupcustoms adidas Cycling Shoe
adidas 'Holty' (Client's Name)

A lot of clients seem to request paint schemes inspired by popular sneakers. Have your clients’ interests always overlapped, or are worlds colliding?
Worlds are certainly colliding: you only need to look at the Rapha x Palace collaborations to see the boundaries being pushed with what is acceptable to wear when you are out riding. People want to stand out these days – they don’t want to look the same as everyone else – and having one-off custom cycling shoes means you really won’t look like anyone else.

Kobes are a popular request and I have had the most fun with these. My personal favourites are the Kobe 4 ‘Wizenard’ and ‘What The’ Kobe 8s. The 8s ended up on the feet of a spin instructor in Singapore.

Considering that Nike and adidas are back in the cycling world, why do you think customers are still requesting Swooshes and stripes on major brands like Fizik, Specialized and Giro?

I wouldn't say Nike have returned to the cycling world. They have made a few spin shoes but nothing fit for road use so there is still a gap in the market.

The same goes for adidas; I feel the designs are a little too modern in appearance. Whenever I have been asked for an adidas custom, the client generally wants a more classic look. If they released something more old-school looking, I believe they would fly off the shelves.

Outline what makes a shoe good for painting.

The best shoes to work on are those with limited buckles and mesh – the plainer the shoe the more real estate there is for painting.

The better the prep work the better the durability of the artwork. I have had a World Tour rider wear a pair of my shoes for thousands of kilometres with no issues at all – but if you skip the prep work you will get issues with adhesion, so put the effort in.

fromthefeetupcustoms Team Mapei Cycling Shoe
Team Mapei Custom
fromthefeetupcustoms Michael Matthews Bling Cycling Shoe
Michael 'Bling' Matthews Custom
fromthefeetupcustoms Michael Matthews Bling Cycling Shoe
Michael 'Bling' Matthews Custom

Describe your most intricate custom to date?
Velokicks commissioned me to do a pair of Team Mapei-inspired kicks for a customer. Each shoe had around 60 cubes and each cube had three shades of colour. The shoe took over 24 hours and I certainly didn't charge enough for the job!

I spent at least 20 hours producing a pair of cycling shoes for world tour rider Michael Matthews (ed. note: he just won Stage 14 of the Tour de France). They were one of the nicest shoes I had ever produced. He decided to debut them in the Tour of Flanders, which is notorious for crashes due to the cobbled roads they ride. He trashed them in the first two hours and I never even got to seem them on TV!

All being well, a pair of my customs may make an appearance during the last week of this year’s Tour!

A must-ask: please name your favourite sneaker.

I don't have a favourite per se, but the first pair of decent shoes I ever had was the original release of the Nike Air Huaraches from 1991 in the black and white colourway when I was nine years old! I loved them and wore them until my toes were almost busting out of the ends. At the moment, I’m mainly wearing my Yeezys: either the 700 ‘Wave Runner’ or 350 V2 ‘Zebra’ – whichever are lying around on the floor at the time.

Need more cycling content? Discover the brief history of Nike Cycling.

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