What Are Sneaker Bots and Can They Affect You?

What Every Sneaker Fan Should Know About These Bulk-Buying Bots
Whenever a hot new sneaker is launched, Sneaker Bots swoop in and take the bulk of the loot. Learn about Sneaker bots and how brands are pushing back.

If you’ve ever sat in anticipation of an exclusive sneaker drop, only for it to be sold out the moment it hits the retailer’s website, chances are that you have been impacted by a sneaker bot.

If you’re not familiar with the term, or even the scenario above, stick around and discover a fan sub-culture that has spawned an equally dedicated team of sophisticated profiteering racket. The whole situation is centered around sneakerheads (fans and collectors of popular, often limited-edition, sneakers) and those who wish to exploit this devotion for profit.

What is a Sneaker Bot?

A sneaker bot is a program that crawls the internet in search of newly launched sneakers, usually limited-edition versions and purchases them in bulk before any real human can buy them online. These bulk purchases are then stored by the parties running the bot and later sold on other online channels at greatly increased prices.

These bots are designed to exploit the hype created around popular sneaker brands and their exclusive inventory of sneakers and shoes. Whenever a major brand like Nike or Supreme launches a brand deal with a celebrity, musician, or athlete, the bots go into a frenzy buying up the items online and leaving human customers empty-handed.

The people behind these bots just enter their personal and credit card details into the bot and then let it loose to make transactions on their behalf. The bot scours the internet for new sneaker drops and completes the payment forms faster than a human buyer could.

Of course, the bot runners don’t keep their haul to themselves. Soon after the brand’s website starts to display the ‘out of stock’ update, new pairs of these sought-after sneakers start to appear on secondary-market platforms like eBay.

How Does a Sneaker Bot Work?

Bots are programs specially created to perform automated actions on a faster and larger scale than would be possible for human beings to accomplish. They can be useful in many instances where information is structured and needed quickly, such as with FAQ bots. They are also useful in monitoring online threats such as antivirus bots.

But bot users can also program them to perform harmful tasks. Sneaker bots are an example of this. There are multiple types of shoe bots that use different tactics to push their bulk buying agenda. These bots include scraping and scalping bots, bots that imitate human movements on the shoe brand’s website, bots that generate

How Are Sneaker Bots Allowed?

Sneaker botting has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, with whole businesses with hundreds of employees profiting off the sneaker resale market. The main purpose is to prevent legitimate and human buyers from getting access to shoes and hoping they are dedicated enough to buy their desired sneakers from secondary resellers.

Using automated bots to buy sneakers often violates retailers’ terms of sale. Some retailers, like Nike, include clauses in their terms of service that enable them to charge restocking fees, decline refunds, and suspend the accounts of people it determine are buying sneakers with the intent to resell them.

How Are Brands Fighting Back Against Sneaker Bots?

Professional bot mitigation software is allowing large and small businesses to fight back. analyzes behavioral indicators like mouse movements, frequency of requests, and time-on-page to identify suspicious traffic. For example, if a user visits several pages without moving the mouse, it’s most likely a bot.

Just like with browser versions, the most sophisticated bots won’t be making these mistakes. But you can take these decisive actions to cut down on low- to medium-sophistication bots.

Your bot mitigation software should let you test suspicious traffic. The most common test is Google’s reCAPTCHA, but many bot mitigation providers offer their own unique CAPTCHAs to make bot running more difficult.

A virtual waiting room is uniquely positioned to weed out sneaker bots. It lets you run visitor identification checks before visitors can buy their sneakers. These waiting rooms can be supplemented with invite-only purchase links sent directly to interested buyers.

The advantage of the invite-only strategy is that you choose who gets access to your drops. Bots can’t abuse your sales because they’re not invited to them. Plus, you can use the exclusive drops to incentivize genuine customers to share their details and sign up for your loyalty program or membership scheme.


Sneaker bots typically use speed and volume to make faster purchases and place more orders. These bots come in all shapes and sizes and are often designed to target a particular site or a particular drop.

Sneaker bots use software to execute automated tasks based on the instructions bot makers give them. Because they’re just software programs, shoe bots can help resellers buy sneakers in many different ways.

The software tools are applied by anticipating how the mind of a person designing the bot works to bypass the regular security methods in place. Attempts to replicate human actions to fool captcha tests are becoming less successful of late but have not been completely eradicated.

However, companies are relentlessly working to outsmart these bots and ensure fairness for all. They are becoming strategic in the ways they try to prevent sneaker bots.

    About Author
    Julia Samuel

    Julia is a researcher and writer pursuing the latest breakthroughs in online privacy technology. She would like to take you along as she explores the tucked-away corners of the internet.

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