Racing Shoes on eBay: Caveat Emptor

by Shaun Donegan

Race day footwear is very important for runners. Many of us lace up spikes for cross country and wear racing flats for the road. These race-specific shoes are tailored for one thing: SPEED.

Enter carbon, the new trend. Carbon plated shoes are quickly replacing traditional racing flats as the go-to shoe for race day. They represent a large jump in technology, offering many advantages, namely speed and endurance. Carbon shoes don’t come cheap (some can fetch over $350) but everyone wants the advantage on race day. Or at least they don’t want to be disadvantaged… With so many different manufacturers making carbon plated shoes, they are becoming hot buys. As with every new trend, there are also counterfeits. Here’s my story, where I got duped.

I jumped on the carbon bandwagon last year with a pair of Nike Vaporflys. I loved them, so this summer I decided to order some Nike Alphaflys, which I heard were even better. I’ve had great luck buying slightly “pre-loved” shoes off of eBay or other “old stock shoes” at a fraction of the price, sometimes up to 70% off MSRP! Most of my “used” shows have fewer than 10 miles on them (my Vaporflys were $80 and had been worn exactly one time) so I decided to pull the trigger on a pair of Alphaflys I found for $100 on eBay.

The seller had great reviews and the listing contained a very detailed description (although he stated he too had bought them used but didn't like them). There were multiple photos, and they appeared to be in very good shape.

They arrived two weeks later and looked just like the photos – in great shape. They looked exactly like every pair of Alphaflys I’d seen. Knowing what my Vaporflys felt like, I tried the Alphaflys on in my dining room. I didn't feel the crazy spring propulsion I was expecting based off the reviews, so I decided to wear them for a 8-mile tempo run. I was not impressed. They didn't feel fast, had no pop, and were not comfortable. I decided I would look them over, and the first thing I did was bend them to see how rigid they were. To my horror they folded in half like a pair of flip-flops with the toe box easily touching the tongue of the shoe. A carbon shoe would not do this, so I looked closer.

The "carbon plate" appeared to be simply a piece of black plastic that stopped when it entered the sole. They weren’t true to size, and they were heavy. Too heavy. I also found a spelling error on the tongue. A quick YouTube search walked me through a few other things to check, and sure enough - these shoes were FAKE.

The counterfeiters went to great lengths to replicate every detail from the real Nike Alphaflys from the visible carbon plate, the air max air pockets, the font, etc. It would have been impossible to tell from the online photos that these were not the real thing. Since eBay does not allow the sale of counterfeit items, a seller must refund the customer if the item is proven to be a counterfeit – you just need to make sure the process is started within the 90-day window.

Buying shoes on eBay or another secondhand source can be a great way to get quality shoes for significantly less money, just beware that counterfeits are out there! If something doesn’t seem quite right, be diligent: check the markings and features, and search YouTube for the make and model to run through some counterfeit tests.

Left to right: Tyler Morrissey, Tony Giuliano, Pete Rowell and Shaun Donegan

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