The topic of sneaker bots can ruin friendships. Bots are the bane of every sneakerhead and their weekly pursuit of a W.
But first, what is a sneaker bot?
A bot is a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are simple and repetitive, much faster than a person could (Wikipedia). Therefore, a sneaker bot can help to acquire multiple pairs of a sneaker within seconds of its online drop.
How did sneaker bots become a thing?
The digitalization of sneaker drops first came about as a response to longer lines and sneaker store brawls becoming more commonplace, especially for highly coveted releases like Nike Dunks and Air Jordan 11s. Then came the pandemic in 2020, which has cemented online drops as a permanent release method going forward.
Along the way, people figured out a way to increase their chances of getting their hands of coveted online releases — bots.
In every game, as in the sneaker game, there are winners and losers. Bot users win, but not all the the time, as we’ve learnt by speaking to bot users. And those who try to cop sneakers fair and square, who can’t get to the sneakers they want as quickly as a bot can, are unhappy about bots.
Is anyone doing anything about this?
In a bid to level the playing field and reintroduce some fairness back into the sneaker game, some stores have instated measures to curb the use of bots. But do sneakerheads feel that it’s enough?
Last week, we asked you to share your thoughts on bots through a poll on Instagram. We also spoke to Limited Edt, a sneaker store in Singapore, and a couple of bot users to get their perspective on things. Here’s what we learned.
Your guesses ranged anywhere from S$50 to thousands of dollars, which is a fairly large window. This price range was affirmed when we reached out to one of our respondents, a bot user, Tom*, who confirmed that he purchased two bots for US$300.
Bots are actually more accessible than we realize. Common sneaker bots like KodaiAIO cost US$175 (approx. S$247) for the first two months and US$59.99 (approx. S$84) per month thereafter, while AIO Bot V2 cost US$325 (approx. S$459). Not cheap, but not out of reach for most sneakerheads — it’s all a question of how badly do you need those shoes?
We reached out to another respondent who’s a bot user, Sam*. He shared that he had spent over US$1,600 for his bot while paying an additional fee of US$100 for proxies and per GB rates for data usage. This configuration, though pricey, enables him to get through tougher, more secure releases like those hosted by Foot Locker.
10% of those polled have experienced using a bot. While some surely get into bots to obtain sneakers to resell, others say they do it for the love of sneakers.
“I will wear most of my pairs. I’m actually a sneakerhead who had to keep paying resale prices in the past till I could not take it anymore and turned to bots,” Sam said.
“Think of bots as a tool; tools help you. We can’t be whining online that the playing field is uneven because bots are here to stay,” Tom explained.
Despite how frowned upon the practice is, more than half polled said they would use a bot given the chance.
However, Sam cautions anyone looking to use bots to pick up their favorite sneakers or build stock for reselling, he said, “I pretty much have not earned anything from ‘botting’ so far. I started using bots during the Yeezy Bred restock in 2020 and I probably ran my bots fewer than ten times since then. I don’t have the time to set up and run my bots.”
Bots, however, are never a guarantee of success. In the end, it’s all down to the stocks available and the number of people trying to get their hands on the shoes. We might also get to the point where it’ll be bots competing with other bots.
This frame attracted compliments for stores such as Limited Edt, Extra Butter and Union that have put in effort to curb the use of bots, and here are some examples:
“Many thanked us for taking a stand against bots and even commented that they hope the big brand websites would be more proactive in stopping bots as well. It made us feel that our efforts are worthwhile,” Mandeep Chopra, owner of Limited Edt, told Straatosphere.
However, some commenters were skeptical of the overall efficacy of these efforts. Some allude to backdoor activity, some say the brands themselves must take steps against bots and bot users, while others simply say not all will be caught:
Indeed, some bot users will slip through the cracks. For Limited Edt, for example, the process is largely manual and will take time to refine and be improved.
“We have been taking measures for some time and are constantly finding ways to minimize bot scoring pairs. For example, instead of using a code which bots can unscramble with no problem, we use a question which asks customers to convert the sneaker to the retail price. We have more ideas, but it’s not going to be easy,” Chopra explained.
“Our hope is that these measures we’ve taken against bots and bot users helps the true customers not to feel disillusioned, and that they stand a real chance of getting the shoes they want,” Chopra explained.
“Reselling will be here to stay and people aren’t always going to be able to get all the hype releases they want, but a scenario where a customer stands absolutely no chance unless they have a bot is very unhealthy in my opinion,” he added.
*Names have been changed to protect our respondents’ identities.