The cyclical nature of sneaker trends means particular practices return to circulation like clockwork. Air Jordan 1s and Nike Dunks always return to cool status, and even the ‘Triple Black’ Air Huaraches had their time in the sun. But one thing that has somehow been able to shrug off the sands of time is the pathological obsession with keeping sneakers from creasing. Well, here’s the ugly truth for the umpteenth time: shoes crease, so get over it.
Why Creasing Happens
It really shouldn’t need to be explained, but sneakers crease along the toe box because that is where the foot naturally flexes.
Toe box creasing is a fact of life. So embrace it, and just let it happen. Like heel drag (which is explained in very deep detail here), creasing is simply a biomechanical function of the foot that enables natural motion.
Creases Are Cool
Sneakers generally look their best when they’re out of the box in all of their wrinkle-free glory. But lest they become shelf queens, never to have a foot shoved inside, is this truly indicative of how a sneaker is actually meant to appear?
In short, most sneakers look better after they’ve been out and about. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and it becomes clear that creases add character.
Now, with customisers going to all the effort to make their sneakers look like they’ve gone through the wringer, it’s a bit unnatural to have crispy toe boxes, no? Faux patina exposes itself as a crease-free charade when the expected areas of wear are actually not present. More on this in the near future…
The Paradox of Crease Prevention in a Post-Capitalist Sneakersphere
Anyone who’s been in the business of sneakers in the secondary marketplace will have undoubtedly encountered various metrics of assessing a product’s condition. Toe box creasing (or lack thereof) is one of these indicators of how worn a sneaker is. Fewer creases imply better condition and thus demand a higher price. Is this really what owning cool sneakers has now boiled down to? Wearing them in a way that maximises the return?
Remember when Justin Timberlake posted this pic? It damn had the whole sneakernet breaking into tears as his box fresh Air Jordan 3s flexed a healthy 90 degrees. JT doesn’t care how much those 3s are worth – he most likely got them for free. While most mortal sneakerheads aren’t on any PR seeding lists and have to buy and wear sneakers with a little bit more discretion, JT makes a good case for simply enjoying shoes. Don’t overthink it.
Jordan Brand acknowledged the weird things sneakerheads do by releasing the Air Jordan 1 'Not For Resale' back in 2018. The didactic phrase ‘PLEASE CREASE’ was printed across the toe boxes in very overt self-awareness of the state of the sneaker game. A store even made wannabe resellers wear their pairs out the door upon purchase, confining the 1s to a creased life. Another retailer offered a crease guarantee for these same 1s by having successful purchasers perform pushups wearing their latest pickup. Sadly, these 1s released on Opposite Day, and now fetch way too much money on the resale platforms. At least JB tried…
Even if the best efforts have been made to mentally digest the fact that creasing is a fact of life, there are ways to circumvent this affliction. Here are some methods that can help – though some are more effective than others.
Just forgo the leather toe box and rock something with mesh. Say goodbye to Air Jordan 1s, Air Force 1s, and Dunks. Hello, Air Max! Suede works too; options like the Clarks Wallabee are more or less creaseproof on day one as they are day 1000.
Better yet, look for sneakers that don’t have eyestays connecting to a U-throat at the tongue. It may not be the only reason certain shoes crease at the toe box, but a throatless toe box design may mitigate the factors that cause creasing.
Force Fields and other stiff toe box inserts need to stay in the 2000s. The amount of people peddling that shit has perpetuated its status as one of the snakiest oils leaving a mess in the sneaker industry. Remember earlier the point about natural motion? Adding a rigid plastic insert is definitely hindering natural motion, and probably contributing to a weird AF gait. Even Frankenstein’s Monster has better form.
Another obvious point: buy and wear the correct sneaker size. A shoe that’s too large at the toes will naturally have more material to bunch up and crease. Buying sneakers too small will also make creasing less likely… but see above point about Frankenstein gait.
Now, go out there and crease those toe boxes! At the end of the day, they’re just sneakers, and life is too short to be worrying about some wrinkled leather.
This feature was originally published on December 5, 2021.