When Ivory Latta was growing up in South Carolina, she couldn’t go to an athletics shoe store and find kicks made by female basketball players. High-tops? A professional league had to be established first.
Now the six-year WNBA veteran, who averaged 14.3 points and 3.3 assists per game for the Tulsa Shock last season, takes pride in making her own shoe: the “IL|12t,” pronounced the “Illist,” sponsored by the women’s apparel line, NFinity. The scrappy, 5-6 point guard named her shoe after her crossover, regarded as one of the “illist” in the women’s game, to go along with her jersey number (12) and initials (IL).
“It was always a dream of mine to build my own shoe and have young ladies playing in it,” says Latta, who will suit up for the Washington Mystics this season. “I’m just speechless, and I’ve been speechless since they called me down to the office to see the finished shoe. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Latta, who serves as a model to young women in various communities through her Latta Life Skills Academy, wanted to make a shoe that was built exclusively for a woman’s physique, as female athletes often have to fit into male sizes and styles that do not cater to their unique physical needs, and their increased susceptibility to knee injuries.
“The majority of women that play in the WNBA wear men’s shoes,” Latta says. “NFinity makes shoes that help women when jumping up and down, since our knees tend to go inward when we jump. My shoe gives women more protection in the knee, which is something we have to have more of for women’s players.
“The majority of my injuries were in the knees, so these shoes give women the stability we need and are also comfortable.”
The shoe comprises Latta’s favorite elements of all of the shoes she’s played in from high school, college and the pros. A primary inspiration came from her days at North Carolina, where she led the Tar Heels to back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2006 and 2007.
“When I was at North Carolina, all the other girls on the team had the Jordans, but I couldn’t really wear Jordans because my feet were so small,” she laughs. “So Nike made me a special Huarache shoe, and I love that shoe — always wore it, one of my favorites of all time, so it has a little something of that in there.”