What our shoes say about us — and the economy

A pair of Adidas sneakers at a 2005 event honoring Jam Master Jay.
A pair of Adidas Superstar sneakers at a 2005 event honoring the life of Jam Master Jay.
Paul Hawthorne | Getty Images 2020

What’s the best thing about fall? No, not apples, changing leaves or even the chill in the air. It’s that fall marks the end of sandals and the start of boot and sneaker season. For some people, everything begins and ends with their shoes. The shoes you wear can say a lot about you, and it’s not just your style that’s talking — it’s your wallet as well. Shoes are practical and luxurious.

Some shoe designers have become household names. Some inspire awe in a single word: Manolos. Sneakers, in particular, have become a cultural icon. In 2020, the global sneaker market was valued at $79 billion and is expected to continue to grow. 

MPR News host Angela Davis talks with a sneaker expert and the founder of a St. Paul sneaker insurance start-up about how sneakers went from functional sports shoes to high fashion collectors’ items. And we talk about the history and legacy of the iconic Minnesota boot brand Red Wing Shoes. 

We also get the latest economic news from MPR News senior economics contributor Chris Farrell. 


  • Dee Wells is the host of the podcast “Obsessive Sneaker Disorder,” the founder of Solecial Studies and a self-described “kickstorian”

  • Phil Terrill is the founder and CEO of SoleSafe, a St. Paul start-up that insures sneakers

  • Dave Schneider is the chief marketing officer at Red Wing Shoes

    Correction (Sept. 13, 2021): A previous version of this post misidentified the location of SoleSafe. The article has been updated.

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