Growing up, Moolah Kicks founder Natalie White always felt like women’s basketball was treated like the JV-level to men’s varsity.
In particular, she was always disappointed when shopping for women’s basketball shoes. Salespeople would steer her toward the children’s section or the men’s section, and she felt like none fit her correctly.
By her senior year of college in 2019, White — by then a lifelong basketball player and Boston College women’s team manager — was fed up. So she decided to launch Moolah Kicks, a women’s basketball sneaker brand focusing exclusively on elevating the women’s game.
“Instead of complaining about it, we’re making space for ourselves,” White told Front Office Sports.
The company launched in January 2020 and began its crowdfunding campaign in May. It aims to rectify two major issues in women’s sports: That companies prioritize men’s basketball over women’s, and that sports equipment — and shoes in particular — are often designed for men.
“I started [Moolah Kicks] for a social reason, because I said, ‘It’s really messed up that we don’t have a brand that sincerely cares about us,’” White said. “Then I realized, oh my gosh, this is a really big problem.”
It’s opportune timing, given the spotlight on the discrepancies between the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments less than two months ago. Women’s teams received inadequate weight rooms, less accurate COVID tests, and less marketing investment than men’s teams — to name just a few examples.
To make the sneakers, White spent more than a year on research. She described one instance in which, before the pandemic, she read an article about the relationship between women’s basketball injuries and players’ shoes. But just reading the article wasn’t enough. She then showed up at the hospital unannounced in search of the articles’ author.
Through her investigation, White found out that women’s feet have several differences compared with men’s feet, from a higher arch to a smaller heel.
According to her findings, the shoes she struggled to wear growing up probably weren’t made for her after all. Many sneakers billed as “women’s basketball shoes” don’t accommodate those differences, White said — they’re just men’s sneakers in different colors and smaller sizes.
“Every five, 10 years, a company makes [a shoe designed for women] for six months, and then leaves it,” White said. “It’s not like the LeBrons, where year after year there’s another LeBron.”
To make shoes she wished she had growing up, White enlisted footwear designer Sean Gayle, who serves as the company’s head of design. The advisory board boasts three CEOs: former Saucony CEO John Fisher, Ryka founder Sheri Poe, and Jones and Vining CEO Jim Salzano.
White and her team came up with a design that prioritizes “female biomechanics.” Over Zoom, White even showed FOS a purple mold called a “last” that represents the inside of a Moolah Kicks shoe, and pointed out all the ways they’re made differently than other sneakers.
“It’s about fitting your feet and feeling like it represents you,” White said of the design.
Sizes will accommodate youth, high school, and college players. They’re sold in white or gray to blend in with multiple uniforms, as young players often play on more than one team at the same time.
Players can pre-order the sneakers now as part of the crowdfunding campaign, which aims to pay to manufacture the first order of sneakers. If White raises enough money to manufacture them, they’ll get made and shipped in time for the 2021 season. And if the goal isn’t met, Moolah Kicks will return the money.
Just three days after launching the crowdfunding campaign, the company had already raised more than $18,000, its website shows.