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Nike’s CryptoKicks NFTs Could Introduce “Sneaker Breeding” to the World

Last Updated: July 20, 2023
Nike’s CryptoKicks patent allows for splicing two pairs of virtual shoes to produce a new one. And the possibilities are endless.

Sneakers, tennis shoes, or kicks. Whichever your nomenclature preference happens to be, athletic footwear is not just a mainstay of the fashion industry, but one of the most coveted classes of collectibles on the market. Recently, a prototype pair of Nike Air Yeezys worn by Kanye West himself netted $1.8 million at a Sotheby’s auction, setting a new record for an individual sneaker sale. It checked all the boxes for what enthusiasts seek to build their collections around: rarity, appearance, and nostalgia.

In the midst of an explosive digital collectibles market that’s moving more and more into the crypto space, however, a new frontier is emerging.

All-digital kicks that you can’t wear on your own two feet aren’t just coming; they’re here. And while traditionalists might find the concept ridiculous, it comes with a groundbreaking twist: What if your favorite parts of one shoe — say, the sole and the heel — could be combined with the tongue and upper of another in order to produce a new, totally exclusive design that could be individually showcased, bought, and sold?

In December 2019, Nike secured a patent for “CryptoKicks,” which denotes the pairing of a non-fungible token with a physical shoe release. Once a purchase is made with a registered seller, the buyer receives a corresponding NFT that uses blockchain technology to verify authenticity and ownership. If the shoes are subsequently sold or traded again, the digital token follows with them.

However, that’s not all there is to Nike’s CryptoKicks patent.

Yes, it sounds like CryptoKicks has plans in place for sneaker “breeding.”

It’s not fantasy. It’s not a video game. It’s just two parent sneakers splicing their proverbial DNA to create sneaker offspring featuring totally new designs.

This process isn’t 100% limitless, as the restrictions of a given shoe’s structure will regulate what can and can’t be created. But by matching each physical pair with an NFT, a sneaker’s full ancestry will always be traceable on the blockchain all the way back to its origin, no matter how many breedings have taken place along the way.

This creates a whole new approach to design — and potentially an entirely new kind of market.

It’s genetic sneaker engineering.

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Although Nike’s entry into the NFT space assures real evolutions in the digital sneaker game, the Swoosh is not the first player to hit the field: the similarly named CryptoKickers launched online in March promising “footwear for the new world.” They have already sold over 300 pairs of digital kicks, and recently announced a new partnership with NBA veteran Wilson Chandler to create a fully-virtual footwear line.

Like a growing number of collectors, Chandler found himself intrigued by blockchain technology. With CryptoKickers, he found a way to harness both to become a commercial and creative pioneer. “As soon as I discovered CryptoKickers, it was a no-brainer to collaborate with them,” the 13-year NBA pro said.

On April 21st, CryptoKickers released 21 pairs of “Wilson Chandler 1s,” with additional drops still to come. A portion of the proceeds from the collaboration will benefit Benton Harbor Community Development Corporation, supplying physical sneakers to kids in Chandler’s hometown community in Michigan and organizing educational programming on cryptocurrency and the blockchain.

With all the opportunities this format presents, Chandler certainly won’t be the only athlete to broker a digital shoe project.

A key advantage of merging sneakers with digital assets is that the “fusion” facet of sneaker culture is frowned upon. These products are frequently viewed as either overpriced or downright ugly — and often both. Original stylings and select colorways are considered much more valuable than fusions of two or more. However, the ability to create one’s own fusion without poses a new and exciting option for sneakerheads. Consider that the collector now becomes a designer, and has more options available than simply hoping for big brands to do right by the consumer.

And it all serves to reinforce the prime directive that governs the sneaker community: exclusivity.

As the concept of virtual shoe fusion (or genetic sneaker engineering) evolves, following along with how the market advances and who takes the lead in moving the culture forward promises to be fascinating. The possibilities are endless.

Just like the potential colorways.