Carrying your shoes to the gym, to your pro-am game, on a plane—or wherever you need to transport those kicks—can present a problem. Either throw ‘em in your backpack or duffle bag with your clothes, most likely dirtying the inside, or carry them in a plastic bag, giving yourself an extra thing to hold.
After experiencing this problem with his basketball shoes in the late ’90s when he was all about hooping, Michael Sala knew there was a better way. He cut up bags and rearranged the pieces to invent his own unique creation, the original Solepack.
“Little by little, I started cutting up bags and made one for myself,” Sala said. “I’ve been dedicating myself to it, and now we have a product that people like—especially ballers.”
That category of ballers includes many, from all sorts of playing backgrounds. WNBA stars Tamika Catchings and Ivory Latta, those at NBA Draft camps and with AAU teams, players at Hoops in the Sun, and dudes who participate in leagues local to Sala’s home base Staten Island, like Under the Lights—where Brian Hogan-Gary dunked over an NYPD cop car with a ‘R.I.P. Eric Garner’ shirt on a couple weeks back.
“I’m literally 50 steps from the league, so I hear whistles go off all the time. A lightbulb went off, ‘I should just reach out to these guys!’” Sala said. Joel Soto and Anthony Garrett run Under the Lights, and Sala said they naturally gravitated toward Solepack, giving birth to a co-promotion relationship, through which both can benefit.
“That’s been such a blessing for us to have, a local community that’s really doing a lot…as far as keeping positivity and just bringing great pro-am basketball to our area.”
In addition to the basketball community, Solepack received support from the soccer, boxing and tennis spheres, as well as general sneakerheads, travelers and underground running crews like the NYC Bridgerunners, Orchard Street Runners, and Toronto’s Parkdale Runners.
The appeal to athletes is clear, as Sala said he sees people latch their Solepack on to duffle bags as well as small hand-carries, although his patent for the design is to attach to a backpack. The neoprene sole used for the bag is an elastic bottom and allows the shoe to break in the Solepack like a hand would a baseball glove. Strategically placed breathable vents air out the ‘pack, and the entire bag is ergonomically designed so it doesn’t strain your back.
A physical therapist by trade, and a hooper at heart, Sala found Solepack to be a problem-solver for his own use; now, he’s sharing it (in different colorways, no less, with another couple dropping in the fall).
“I wanted to make my footprint on this world. I’m not a designer or anything like that…but something led me to cutting up and developing this bag and approaching the community I grew up in.”