One pair to rock, and one pair to stock, right? Sneakerheads might amass a large collection of shoes, with some pairs not ageing like fine wine but rather falling apart.
Above, you can see a pair of 20-year-old Air Max 95s. Recently, Twitter user Nagomo Oji tried them on for the first time in twenty years, took a step outside, and they fell apart.
This photo has been retweeted nearly ten thousand times.
Not all old sneakers experience crumbling. There are many factors, including how they are stored and even where they are stored, with things like temperature and humidity coming into play.
See it’s more than that. It’s chemistry.
As Phlemtropolis.com explains, a chemical process called hydrolysis breaks the bonds in moulded polyurethane molecules, causing the crumbling. Shoes like Nagomo Oji’s Air Maxes with a polyurethane midsole simply fall apart once hydrolysis occurs.
That’s why wrapping the shoes in plastic might not necessarily help:
Footwear industry consultant Phillip Nutt is quoted by Phlemtropolis.com as saying that shoes with direct-injected polyurethane soles last four to five years, but “”crumble into a sticky mess” if they are stored for “longer than four years or so.”
It doesn’t matter the brand or the maker. What matters is the polyurethane.
So these shoes trade in the shelf life of good old-fashioned leather soles for the weight and comfort of polyurethane. Sneakers that don’t have polyurethane in the midsole have a better chance of lasting longer. But even then, these shoes weren’t made to stand the test of time.
Picture: Sneaker News
On the NikeTalk.com board, user BlackVetteGS perhaps put it best in a thread about crumbling shoes, writing, “This is a perfect example of why you should wear your shoes. They are going to deteriorate anyways. I store all my shoes in an air-conditioned room and some of them yellowed, some the soles separated and cracked or some of the soles got very soft (fragile). After going thru that, I no longer buy doubles and I wear them all and enjoy them. Nothing Lasts Forever!!!”