For decades, the Michael Jordans, LeBron Jameses and Kevin Durants of the sports world have cashed in by wearing sneakers and signing multimillion-dollar shoe deals. But what about the Seabiscuits, Secretariats and Seattle Slews?
Where is the hoofwear for the horse-athlete?
Marcus Floyd has an answer, because he doesn't make horseshoes. He makes horse kicks.
Floyd, the 39-year-old owner of the upstart fashion brand Infinite Kustomz, has created multiple sets of designer shoes for the athletically inclined equine. He started retrofitting Nike, Adidas and New Balance sneakers after Visit Lex, the public tourism agency for Lexington, Ky., pitched him on the idea ahead of this weekend's Breeders' Cup horse races.
"For far too long, these multi-millionaires" - the horses, that is - "have been fitted with traditional, run-of-the-mill horseshoes," Visit Lex said on its website promoting the project. "Horse Kicks is here to change that . . . to offer horses of all breeds and disciplines the drip they deserve."
This summer, Visit Lex approached Floyd, who was born and raised in Lexington, to execute its vision. Floyd, who works overnight at a Toyota dealership doing maintenance, said he's been a sneakerhead since seventh grade. His first pair of top-flight shoes: the Air Jordan 11s. He remained obsessed through high school and into adulthood. An "old-school guy," he would camp out at the mall starting at 3 or 4 in the morning to ensure he got a pair of sneakers the day they dropped.
"I was a brick-and-mortar kind of guy," he said.
Then, the game changed, Floyd said. Younger sneakerheads started using bots to snap up newly released shoes online, making it nearly impossible to get them in the stores, even for die-hards willing to camp out. So Floyd adapted. Starting in 2016, he made his own "new" shoes, taking older, sometimes less popular, ones and painting them.
"If I want something unique I'll just create it myself," he said.
In 2020, he upped his customization game, flying to Los Angeles to attend a four-day course at the Shoe Surgeon's SRGN Academy, where students learn to deconstruct and then remake sneakers. Since then, Floyd said, he's created about 20 pairs.
About five months after the academy, he started making shoes for clients. Although Floyd described his average customer as an "everyday sneakerhead," he said he's had some standout clients, including Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and actor Isaac Keys from the TV show "Power Book IV: Force." Earlier this year, he made a client a Duke University-themed pair of Nike Air Force 1s that she wore at the retirement party for legendary Blue Devils basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Then, in June, a public relations firm approached Floyd on behalf of Visit Lex, also known as the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, to pitch him on an idea: What if you made shoes for horses? The organization charged with cheerleading all things Lexington, which the bureau has dubbed the "Horse Capital of the World," said the broader sports world often overlooks the athleticism of racehorses and wanted to do something to highlight it.
"They thought it would be cool to basically build the horses up as athletes," Floyd said, "because that's what they are."
Then came the idea: Athletes wear shoes. They get sneaker deals. Those shoes become part of their brands and identities. Why not horses like Triple Crown winners Justify or American Pharoah?
So the group approached Floyd, and he got to work. Unlike the shoes he had been making for humans, he had no guide to rely on. As far as he could tell, no one had ever made sneakers for horses.
His prototype - modified Air Jordan 1s - took 12 to 15 hours to design, deconstruct and craft into hoofwear. And that was just for one shoe, not the four needed to outfit a horse. But Floyd said he'll be able to cut production time with more experience. He also plans to make Infinite Kustomz-branded horse kicks from scratch, which will eliminate the time required to break down sneakers made for human feet.
He's produced five four-shoe sets so far: two out of Air Jordan 1s, one from New Balance 650s, one out of Adidas Yeezys and a set in the style of the Nike Mag Back to the Future shoes.
Floyd said the amount of attention his horse kicks are getting is surreal, and he's trying to soak it all in.
"The initial reaction was of release, because like wow, the world is finally seeing my art," Floyd said. "I'm finally getting the love that I thought maybe would have come a long time ago for some of the other projects I've done."
But he's trying not to get too wrapped up in it. There's still work to be done. He also wants to team up with big shoe companies to tap into the new industry, which he said has a lot of room to grow.
"There's a huge market for shoes for these athletes, whether they're running in them, jumping or just traveling to the show," Floyd said, adding that he hopes the companies "understand the market for the horse-athlete."