What Is a Sneaker Bot? Here’s Everything You Need To Know
Picture this: you’re all geared up for the release of the limited-edition Nike sneakers you’ve been eyeing for a while. Unfortunately, as soon as Nike releases the shoe, you realize you cannot purchase it in your location due to region restrictions.
What exactly can you do to prevent situations like these? The answer may lie in using sneaker bots.
Although sneaker bots are becoming increasingly popular, not everyone knows the best practices for using them.
This guide will cover what you need to know, including what a sneaker bot is and the recommended practices for avoiding IP bans and blacklists. Whether you’re just starting with sneaker bots or have some experience and are looking to step up your game, read on to find out everything about sneaker bots!
Sneaker Bot 101: What Is a Sneaker Bot?
Naturally, the first question that comes to mind when hearing of sneaker bots is: What is a bot in the sneaker world? The good news is, as long as you know what a bot is — sneaker, or otherwise — then figuring out sneaker bots isn’t much of a leap.
Simply put, a sneaker bot is a software bot configured to automatically complete the checkout process at online stores.
Sneaker bots are also called “shoe bots,” referring to their original use case of buying shoes from retailers’ websites. The bot accomplishes this by automatically filling out the credit card and billing information at the checkout and placing orders for the purchased item.
What is a sneaker bot task?
As the name suggests, sneaker bots are typically deployed to buy sneakers from a retailer’s website. However, people can also use these bots to purchase other goods. The criteria for these retail goods is that they have limited availability.
Sneaker bots: not just for buying
Some sneaker bots also have the task of reselling the item immediately after purchase. The person deploying the bot typically resells the limited item after purchase. The goal, of course, is to churn out a profit by reselling an item at a much lower price.
Sneaker bots usually buy and resell limited edition release items. The limited quantity of such items makes them ideal for reselling for profit. A sneaker bot will typically purchase the items in bulk before reselling.
Not every item sneaker bots purchase will be limited because of the minimal release quantity. Sometimes, the item in question may be limited due to geographical restrictions. Think of the PS5 — official retailers can only sell the PS5 in certain countries.
What is a bot sneaker?
You may also have heard the term “bot sneaker” thrown around. Although it sounds similar to a sneaker bot, the two are different.
A bot sneaker informally refers to sneakers or other limited quantity items being resold for a higher price. Since buyers cannot purchase the item from an official retailer, they must purchase “bot sneakers” instead.
How Do Sneaker Bots Work?
Now that you’re aware of what a sneaker bot is, you’re probably wondering how sneaker bots work in practice. This section will explain a high-level overview of a sneaker bot and how it might carry out operations in practice.
Beyond all the complicated lines of code, a sneaker bot is just a piece of software that accesses retailer websites from a list of existing product URLs.
Once it accesses the website, it will automatically input user information and check out the item for purchase. This information can include:
- Buyer’s name
- Shipping address
- Credit or debit card information
- Quantity of purchase
The list of product URLs is often available in cook groups. These cook groups are communities of like-minded botters who meet together to help each other.
Don’t be fooled by this simple-looking formula: sneaker bots can purchase items exponentially faster than regular humans. A single website may get millions or even billions of page views in a single day from sneaker bots.
Are sneaker bots legal?
A major concern about sneaker bots is their legality and the potential repercussions of using them.
Strictly speaking, sneaker bots are not illegal to own. Bot makers such as PrismAIO and AIO Bot regularly openly advertise and market their products on publicly available websites. As long as the maker sells the bot using legal means on the clear web as opposed to the dark web, they don’t carry much legal risk.
Be warned, though — some websites list specific terms and conditions that sneaker bots can directly violate. Companies such as Nike, Adidas, and Supreme are not only aware that sneaker bots exist but also actively deploy measures to prevent them (we’ll get to that in a moment).
Are sneaker bots ethical?
What about ethicality?
A sneaker bot is just a tool at the end of the day. It is up to the user to decide how to use the tool in question.
Think of a hammer: you can use a hammer to build a house or smash windows on private property. The ethicality depends entirely on the end-user and how they choose to use the tool.
Similarly, not every sneaker user wants to hoard limited items or resell them at gouged prices. As long as you use the recommended best practices for sneaker bots, you can avoid most of the damage that comes with them, such as slow retailer website speed due to excessive bot traffic.
Common Sneaker Bot Pitfalls
As mentioned, large companies are aware of sneaker bots and actively try to prevent them. Here are some common pitfalls that sneaker bots may face when purchasing products online:
CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.
Retailers will often employ a CAPTCHA to detect sneaker bots trying to access their web pages. A CAPTCHA is one of the most effective anti-bot security measures for all kinds of bots. The most common CAPTCHA is identifying objects (i.e., a train) from a randomized image set.
Unfortunately, if your sneaker bot triggers CAPTCHA, there’s not much you can do. Your sneaker bot’s best defense against CAPTCHA is to avoid it in the first place.
Honeypots are bot traps meant to lure unsuspecting sneaker bots, only to catch them in the process.
The most common type of honeypot is a web link that is not visible to humans but is to bots. Once a sneaker bot accesses a honeypot link, the site master will immediately be alerted of the bot and ban the IP address from which it originates.
One can often recognize honeypots by their style features. For example, a link may have a “nofollow” tag or “CSS element display:none.” Your sneaker bot’s best bet against honey pots is using anti-detection logic.
IP bans and blacklisting
Finally, a sneaker bot can run into IP bans or blacklists. These are typically the result of CAPTCHA or honeypots detecting bots.
IP bans will prevent your IP address from accessing a website entirely, whereas blacklists will only ban the IP from accessing specific site content.
Using rotating proxies is the best way to prevent your sneaker bot from running into IP bans or blacklists. Smart browsing patterns can also help avoid this outcome. These patterns include but are not limited to limiting site requests and restricting purchase request volume for sale items.
Sneaker Bot Best Practices
If you’re worried about the pitfalls of using sneaker bots, there’s good news: you can prevent most of these pitfalls by using recommended sneaker bot practices.
The best way to prevent CAPTCHAs, honeypots, and IP bans/blacklists is to use a three-tiered architecture for your sneaker bot. This architecture consists of the following components:
- The sneaker bot program
- A dedicated proxy server
- Proxy clients for providing rotating IP addresses
It isn’t easy to parallelize your sneaker bot without a dedicated proxy server. In other words, running the same bot multiple times on a single website will inevitably lead to a ban. Some websites can easily determine purchase requests originating from a single IP and ban the source IP address.
Proxy clients can also give each bot instance a single dedicated IP address. By using multiple rotating IP addresses, the bot gives the illusion of multiple people queuing to buy the item rather than multiple requests originating from a single source.
Best sneaker bot proxies
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In the sneaker bot world, there are many pitfalls and traps the average botter may not be aware of. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to prevent these pitfalls with a dedicated proxy server and proxy clients.
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