what we know

Absolutely Everything We Know About the Trump Sneakers

Donald Trump
Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

On February 17, Donald Trump became a shoe salesman. At Sneaker Con in Philadelphia, the former president announced from the stage that he was launching Trump Sneakers, a collection of “limited-edition” shoes. Though the surprise event took place one day after a New York judge ordered Trump to pay a $450 million penalty in a civil trial over his fraudulent business practices, this cash grab had apparently been in the works for a while. Below is everything we have been able to learn about the bizarre new Trump scheme, including where the sneakers may be manufactured and whether they’re actually any good.


What are the sneakers Trump is selling?

The Trump Sneakers website offers three “limited edition” models “inspired by President Trump” for preorder:

• The $399 gold Never Surrender high-tops, which the website indicated were limited to only 1,000 pairs and had sold out within a day of their release. Pairs were subsequently listed on eBay for thousands of dollars, though some might have been knockoffs.
• The $199 T-Red Wave: “Drenched in vibrant red and sporting the fearless ‘45,’ the ‘Red Waves’ are for the front-runners who step boldly,” the site says.
• The $199 POTUS 45: “A power play for your feet” with “crisp white knit and striking gold ‘45,’” per the site.

Photo: Screencap/GetTrumpSneakers.com
Photo: Screencap/GetTrumpSneakers.com


Do these sneakers actually exist?

They appear to.

According to GetTrumpSneakers.com, Trump Sneakers are “made to order” and “are expected to start shipping July 2024 for the gold High-Tops, and the Potus 45 White Knit & Red Wave Knit are expected to ship in August 2024.” The site includes multiple disclaimers that the images of the sneakers “are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product” — which means that once people who have ordered them actually receive the shoes, they may find some differences between what they saw and what they got. (There are no refunds, naturally.)

At the Sneaker Con launch, several pairs of special Trump-autographed “Friends & Family” editions of the gold high-tops were given away to influencers. So those sneakers, at least, do exist.


Has Trump ever worn these sneakers himself?

That’s not clear. There are no photographs of him wearing them. Also, though the website says the shoes are “President Trump’s official sneaker,” let’s be honest: They don’t fit his stuck-in-the-’80s fashion aesthetic at all.

He does however say that all his friends want them. In a CNBC interview on March 11, Trump claimed:

People were going crazy for these sneakers. You probably were, too. Everybody was. Every friend I have had called me for a pair of sneakers.


Who is making the shoes?

That’s a bit of a mystery. The Trump Sneakers site says the shoes “are not designed, manufactured, distributed or sold by Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their respective affiliates or principals.”

Instead, the Trump-owned CIC Ventures LLC (which was also behind Trump’s NFT digital trading-card venture) has licensed his name to another company called 45Footwear LLC.

The business registration for 45Footwear LLC was filed on January 31, less than three weeks before the sneaker line was launched. It was registered by an independent asset-protection consultant named Andrew Pierce, who works for a law firm called Cloud Peak Law Group in Sheridan, Wyoming. Pierce and the firm have apparently set up more than 5,000 LLCs for clients. The address listed in the filing for 45Footwear LLC is the same as the firm’s.

It costs only $100 for anyone to quickly and anonymously register an LLC in Wyoming using agents like Pierce, and the lack of oversight has made the state a haven for shady pop-up businesses. Reuters reported in December that it had uncovered a number of shell companies operated by cybercriminals that had been registered by LLC-registration businesses in Sheridan. Reporting on the Pandora Papers in 2022, the Washington Post explained, “In Wyoming, the number of LLCs has soared in the past decade from about 4,200 to more than 220,000, state data shows. Companies established in the state have been listed in lawsuits alleging medical fraud in Russia, tax dodging in Hungary, and bank theft in Zimbabwe, foreign court records show.”

To be clear, none of that means 45Footwear LLC is some foreign money-laundering operation posing as a Trump sneaker company — just that it is an opaque entity.

Trump didn’t shed much light on the question during February’s launch event, saying only, “I have some incredible people that work with me on things, and they came up with this … And I think it’s gonna be a big success.”


Who is actually manufacturing the sneakers?

It’s not yet clear who the manufacturer is or where it is located.


Are they high-quality sneakers?

Probably not.

After their debut, menswear analyst Derek Guy wrote a thread on X speculating on where they might be coming from (“from the soles, I will assume somewhere in a low-cost Asian country,” he claimed) and how much it might cost to manufacture them. He highlighted the fact that the website is offering only preorders for the shoes as one way Trump might profit:

There’s no distributor or retailer, as Trump is selling it directly to consumers. How much did it cost to make this website? Maybe $100? There’s no overstock or inventory to worry about, as everything was sold on pre-order. So, for a shoe that prob costs $20 to make, maybe we can add another $20 for various associated costs. That’s still a 10x markup from cost to retail, with all the profit being pocketed by Trump. This is not at all comparable to how other fashion companies price things.

(As a followup, Guy also wrote up some advice at Politico for how wear Trump’s gilded sneakers with various outfits.)

Some sneakerheads have noted that the shoes look like sneakers you could order from a big China-based marketplace like AliExpress or Temu and simply customize with a T and some American flags.

At The Bulwark, self-professed sneakerhead Joe Perticone offered a more detailed analysis. First, he emphasized that “it’s important to understand that the online sneaker market is Grifter City”:

Pure garbage is upsold for insane amounts over the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). This excess value is determined by a number of different factors: scarcity, what’s currently (and fleetingly) considered “cool,” and unpredictable events — for example, the sighting of a celebrity wearing the yet-to-be-released kicks. Scarcity is the only factor that is in any way quantifiable, which is one of the reasons the online sneaker market is so volatile that it makes cryptocurrency look like the S&P 500.

Perticone added that the Trump Sneakers designs “are years behind current sneaker trends”:

To my eye, the [Trump Sneakers] appear to be cheap wholesale shoes with some shiny branding stitched on the sides. They don’t carry the material heft associated with premium sneakers, such as soles made by top-tier Italian producers like Margom or Vibram …

The team behind Trump’s MAGA Stan Smiths appears to have borrowed the design of the shoe from the waning days of the George W. Bush administration: The $399 gold “Never Surrender High-Top Sneakers” are reminiscent of the Adidas high-tops designed by Jeremy Scott and popularized by rapper Lil Wayne during the late 2000s. Meanwhile, Trump’s other two sneakers — a $199 design that comes in red (“T-Red Wave”) or white (“POTUS 45”) — bring to mind the sock-style shoes that have been around for decades but took the sneaker market by storm in recent years thanks to innovative designs by Kanye West. 

Watch dealer and influencer Roman Sharf won a pair of the “Never Surrender” gold high-tops with a $9,000 auction bid the same day the sneakers were launched. He later told the New York Times that “they’re still new — they smell like glue.” That is definitely not a good sign. According to sneaker authenticator Rami Almordaah, who spoke with the Los Angeles Times for a story in November about detecting counterfeit sneakers:

Inside the box, Nikes and Jordans have a distinct smell. The fakes have a strong alcohol or a strong glue smell. The real ones have their own distinct smell, and it’s always the same.

So if the Trump sneakers smell like glue, it is possible that they may be no better quality than cheap knockoffs.

Putting the question of quality aside, Roman Sharf got a lot in return for his purchase. “I spent $9,000 for $9 million worth of publicity,” he told Intelligencer, describing the many interviews he has done. After the auction, he also says that Trump invited him and his son to lunch at the Trump International Golf Club. “It was just a conversation between the boys that felt like I was one of the boys, to be fair,” Sharf said.


There are already knockoff Trump sneakers for sale.

Google is flush with ads in which shady-looking sellers (without any buyer reviews) market heavily discounted Trump Sneakers that either look exactly the same, look similar, or appear to be inspired by the originals (or at least search-engine interest in the originals).

Illustration: Screencap/Google

Some of these deals may be scams shipping knockoffs — if they ever ship at all. And if the vendors are legit, they’re way ahead of the Trump Sneakers team, which won’t start shipping to customers until this summer. Then again, some of these knockoffs may be coming from the same manufacturer, for all anybody knows. Either way, caveat emptor.


And there are parody fictional knockoffs, too.

In Saturday Night Live’s recent take on the shoes, Trump Sneakers have magical powers but don’t make the wearer a better basketball player; they make them look and sound like Trump and impart the power to convince anyone that a lying boast is the truth:

The Amazon Prime series The Boys, about a world where superheroes exist but are mostly awful, murderous egomaniacs managed by a soulless Fox News–ish megacorporation, parodied the Trump sneakers in a promotion for its upcoming fourth season. The Boys’ version of the shoes is “Homelander High-Tops” — named for the show’s primary villain, a fascist MAGA-ish Superman who is insecure, self-obsessed, and violent.

The Democratic National Committee has also mocked up fake Trump sneakers for a trolling mobile billboard positioned outside the 2024 CPAC conference.


Why is Trump selling branded sneakers?

Because he wants to make some money off anyone willing to buy his branded sneakers.


So this isn’t about politics or his presidential campaign?

No, it’s just about making money. During his appearance to launch the shoe line at Sneaker Con in Philadelphia, Trump briefly suggested he was there to connect with young voters, and a Fox News pundit has suggested the shoes are a savvy way of “connecting with Black America because they’re into sneakers,” but there is no evidence this is anything other than a money grab. The website selling the shoes includes disclaimers that the effort “is not political and has nothing to do with any political campaign.”

Put another way, Trump isn’t selling shoes for political gain; he’s leveraging politics to sell shoes for personal gain.


Has any other major presidential candidate tried to monetize their supporters like this? Is it ethical?

No, and not really.

Trump isn’t just selling sneakers this campaign cycle: He’s also hawking perfume, NFTs, and a weird Bible — and there will undoubtedly be more moneymaking schemes to come. CNBC talked to some watchdogs about all this:

“There is no precedent for this level” of business activity during a presidential campaign, Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig told CNBC, though “the trend has been building for many years.”

Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director of money-in-politics watchdog Documented, agreed.

“I can’t think of any other modern example of a presidential candidate hawking an array of goods for their private benefit,” Fischer said.

For an average candidate, that activity might trigger a campaign finance investigation — but it likely won’t for Trump, who has been selling branded goods long before he entered politics, according to Fischer. “Trump is a unique case,” he said.

And as Noah Bookbinder, the president of the nonprofit watchdog CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), reminded the Washington Post, it’s already abundantly clear that Trump doesn’t have any qualms about mixing business with politics. He smashed that norm to smithereens a long time ago:

“If you’re not using things like the seal of the president, it’s not illegal,” [ president Noah Bookbinder] said. “But he’s running for president, and we know based on past experiences that he’s not going to give up his businesses [if elected]. That is in some ways where the ethical and in some cases legal questions come in.”

Bookbinder said that Trump made clear through his first term in office that he was very open to allowing people to curry favor with him by staying at Trump-branded hotels or doing business with Trump companies.

“He’s really trying to capitalize at all levels, from all different kinds of supporters,” Bookbinder said. “He’s looking for any kind of opportunity to make money from his political influence, political support and his potential future political office.”


What other Trump-branded merchandise has he promoted in the past?

In addition to his family corporation’s hotels, resorts, golf courses, and condo buildings, Trump has slapped his name on a wide array of products over the years, both before and after he turned to politics. Many of these Trump wares have been of questionable quality and value, most were short-lived, and some led to fraud allegations. Here’s a partial list:

Trump Vodka
Trump Steaks
Trump Ice Natural Spring Water
• The magazines Trump Style, Trump World, and Trump Magazine
Trump Airlines
Trump Home furniture, mattresses, crystal, candles, and décor
Trump University
Trump: The Game (a Monopoly-inspired board game)
Trump Mortgage
• The GoTrump.com luxury-travel search engine
The Trump Institute traveling lecture series
• Trump Casinos
• The Trump camo pet bow tie
Trump Wine
• The Trump Office for Staples collection (executive office chairs)
Trump Signature Collection menswear (all manufactured abroad)
Trump Tycoon role-playing-game mobile app
• The revenge-seeking coffee-table book Letters to Trump
Trump NFT digital trading cards
• Trump’s “Never Surrender” mug-shot merchandise, including T-shirts, coffee mugs, and Christmas wrapping paper
• Trump trading cards containing fragments of his mug-shot suit
Trump-endorsed Lee Greenwood “God Bless the U.S.A.” Bibles

This post has been updated.

Absolutely Everything We Know About the Trump Sneakers