It's a fact: when your sneakers are fresh, random people from the street will ask you where you got 'em. So for all the bus drivers and friends of friends who have asked, here is a list of Bay Area shops where you too can score an exclusive pair of kicks.
Female sneakerheads are usually at a disadvantage when trying to find limited-edition athletic footwear in their size, but Bows & Arrows (2513 Telegraph, Berk.; 510-649-6683, www.bowsandarrowsberkeley.com) owner Jerry Harris acknowledges the demand for smaller shoes and orders small men's sizes whenever he can. Definitely a stop to make for all genders who are looking for Quickstrikes on the other side of the Bay Bridge.
Virtually invisible from the denser streets of North Beach, the remodeled shop formerly known as Recon/NORT, now called the Darkside Initiative (1827 Powell, SF; 415-837-1909), is too easy to miss but a pleasure to find. The downstairs sneaker heaven is closed off now, but you can still find Quickstrikes and other limited-edition styles on the main floor, such as the bright, primary-colored Nike Tier Zero "Be True" Dunks.
Along with Nike SBs and the occasional Quickstrikes, DLX (1831 Market, SF; 415-626-5588, www.dlxsf.com) also carries Vans Syndicates, which are exclusive to skate shops. Drino Man may have ranted that Vans aren't real sneakers in his song "Fuck Vans," but the Syndicates collabo with Japanese brand W)Tap would be a nice addition to any sneakerphile's collection.
The security glass cases at First Step (948 Market, SF; 415-693-9720, www.firststepsf.com) display unworn, retro, upper-tier Nikes and Jordans that can be purchased in their original boxes. With an average price of $500 a pair, these shoes end up in the hands of true collectors or those endowed with deep pockets. Also check out their Sneaker Art display Air Force 1s and other favorites that have met with local artists' paintbrushes.
While most skate shops shied away from adopting Nike's first foray into manufacturing skateboarding shoes, 510 (2500 Telegraph, Berk.; 510-849-8600, www.510skateboarding.com) was one of only three shops in the Bay Area to carry Nike SBs when the line debuted in 2001. Its early interest in Nike SBs is the reason that the store has a premium account with Nike. Good news, ladies: 510 orders men's sizes as small as 4, so now you can be as fresh as the fellas.
In 2006, two companies each designed a pair of shoes specifically for FTC (1632 Haight, SF; 415-626-0663, www.ftcskate.com) in honor of its 20th anniversary. And because the store has been around for 21 years, a lot of brands send it color combos that aren't otherwise available in the United States. FTC's obviously got clout in the footwear game, and female clients can't complain: they've carried some styles in a men's size 3.5.
It's like stepping into a 1980s stockroom Harput's (1527 Fillmore, SF; 415-922-9644, www.harputs.com) has been collecting Adidas shoes for the last 20 years. That vintage pair on display that just caught your eye? They've been marinating in storage for decades and are no longer available anywhere else but here. To get the most out of your visit, ask Bootsy Harput about the true origin of sneaker culture.
You can't be a self-proclaimed sneaker fiend if you've never been to Huf (808 Sutter, SF; 415-614-9414, www.hufsf.com). The Sutter location has top accounts with all the popular brands Nike, Air Jordan, Adidas, and Vans and it's the only authorized dealer in northern California for Japanese brand Vizvim and quirky Ice Cream lace-ups.