Sole man

Written by Amy Palser

Josh Meier wants the most difficult decision of the day to be deciding which shoes he's going to wear.

With 230 pairs in his collection, that's not as easy as it sounds.

The 31-year-old manager of Whole Foods in Wichita is a lifetime sneaker lover with a personal collection that spills out of his bedroom closet into two spare rooms of his east Wichita home.

He blames retail for his sole obsession that and being rewarded with shoes as a kid. Grandma would always give me shoes. You did good in school, you got another pair of shoes, he said. She worked in retail and Mom's always been in retail. I think that's where it comes from.

After Meier's feet stopped growing his senior year of high school, he decided to hang onto the shoes he bought, starting with skateboarding shoe SUPRA (he now has well over 70 pairs). In time he added Air Jordans (of which he has 72 pairs), as well as Nike basketball shoes by LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kobe Bryant.

One wall belongs to 30-plus pairs of Adidas, which he loves for the technology. He also has 15 pairs of NIKEiD custom shoes, which he designed to commemorate everything from job promotions to his wedding day to the birth of his son, Cameron, now 2. (Each shoe is subtly embroidered and stamped with dates, names, and even quotations.)

While some get into the shoe game to make money, Meier decided long ago not to sell any. I never looked at it like a collection, like I'm collecting sneakers, he said. I just like shoes. It's wearable art. It's an extension of yourself.

And, regardless of how colorful or flashy, he wears them all. He's sported a different pair to work every day since moving to Wichita from Denver last December. By his calculations, he'll finally start repeating sneakers this month.

I'm at 230 right now; 365 would be hilarious because then you'd have a new pair of shoes for every day of the year, he said.

There is one shoe he doesn't plan on wearing anytime soon: a pristine pair of white Nike Foamposites in their original box. I told my wife, When I die, I want to be buried in these. You gotta be prepared! They're ready to go. (Not to worry he's got the same pair in his wearable collection, too.)

It's hard to tell that any of Meier's shoes have been worn since he cleans each pair top to bottom with a toothbrush and shoe cleaner before returning them to the shelf. Cleaning them is cathartic, he says a ritual he completes about once a week while wife Heather paints her nails.

And just entering one of his shoe rooms and taking it all in, that's cathartic, too, he says.

I walk in there and it's like my art. It's like looking at someone's paintings.

For sneaker connoisseur Josh Meier, starting a family meant starting a new shoe collection on a much cuter scale. Meier and wife Heather's 2-year-old son Cameron has 25 pairs of size 5 sneakers, displayed artfully on a shelf next to his crib. Just like dad, Cameron rotates through all 25 pairs, which get cleaned top to bottom after each wear.

Meier said starting a collection for his son was a no-brainer. It was another opportunity for me to get shoes, said the Whole Foods Wichita store manager, who has 230 pairs of sneakers in his own size-12 collection.

With a baby boy arriving in January, Meier has already begun shoe shopping. The new nursery is empty save for a shelf with five pairs of infant-sized sneakers. Meier believes shoes should match the personality of the wearer, so he's in a quandary about passing Cameron's existing shoe collection to the new baby.

That's the question, Meier says with a laugh, that's been keeping me up at night.

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