They’re a way for players to express themselves, distinguish themselves, even pay tribute to others.
“It’s kind of like a car. You get a car customized. You build a home from scratch almost. It’s your own. You might have something, whether it’s your kids’ names or hometown or something like that that means something to you,” says Darius Butler.
With cornerbacks Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, and Butler as clients, Marcus Rivero is the guy who keeps the Colts “No Fly Zone” looking fly.
Toler says custom kicks may not make you faster, but they may make you think you’re faster. And some days, that’s all you need.
“Playing DB (defensive back), you always heard, ‘You look good, you play good.’ So, you’re looking down, you feel good. It’s like being on the field with the nice, newest shoe, I guess.”
Only custom designed for you. And Rivero’s “1-of-1” policy means no pair will ever be duplicated.
A former football player himself, Rivero says he ended up in the cleat business by accident and he has an old girlfriend to thank for it.
“I actually was dating a girl who wasn’t a big sneaker fan,” he says. “One Valentine’s Day I said, you know what? I’m going to buy a pair of shoes…she didn’t like the color. She thought it was a beautiful shoe, ugly color.”
So, he did what any romantic, sneaker-loving male would do, and decided to paint them. The owner of a tire business in Miami, Rivero knew nothing about painting sneakers. But to his surprise, they turned out good.
And social media took care of the rest.
“She posted it on Instagram. She loved the shoe, obviously. And next thing you know, friends of ours started saying, ‘I want one for my wife or for my son.’”
Somehow, Nolan Carroll, cornerback for the Miami Dolphins at the time, ran across the post.
“He saw it and he wanted me to do a pair of sneakers for him, which I did. He fell in love with the shoes. About a month after that, he said, ‘Hey, I have a project. I want you to do a pair of cleats.’”
Rivero was hesitant at first. He didn’t know if he could do a pair of cleats or if they’d even hold up. Carroll persisted and he finally agreed to try. But with no guarantee of the outcome, Rivero refused to take any money.
Carroll wore the painted cleats in three preseason games in 2013. And just like Rivero’s sneaker experiment, they were a huge success. They were also a huge hit with Carroll’s Dolphins teammates, including Vontae Davis.
Marcus Rivero suddenly found himself in the shoe business. He named his company Soles by Sir and within months, he watched his clientele spread from one corner of the country to the other.
“This basically started on my couch, in a cardboard box, in the middle of a living room. And to see them in the Super Bowl, was just a surreal scene.”
Vontae Davis is not surprised by Rivero’s success. He says his work pretty much sells itself.
“Most people, it’s word of mouth. He does such a good job that guys come to you by seeing his cleats like, ‘Who did those?’”
Through their working relationship, the two have become close friends. So close, that Rivero was at Davis’ wedding in June and surprised him and his wife, Megan, with custom sneakers for their reception.
“Her shoe game is beautiful,” says Rivero of Megan. “But it’s definitely not comfortable.”
As for Rivero’s shoe game, it’s somewhere between on point and off the charts.
Now designing shoes full time, his goal is to exit the tire business and make 50 percent (or more) of the NFL players his clients.
He’s already made his way into college football and he’s about to make history with Adidas and his alma mater, the University of Miami. On September 19th, for the first time in sports, an entire team will take the field in custom cleats (over 100 pair) hand designed by Rivero.
Making a life in the game he loves, Marcus Rivero isn’t just living his dream.