You may have seen Nate Freed’s breakout article this week in the Chicago Tribune.

Freed, a 22-year-old Mizzou graduate from Naperville (now Hinsdale), is the brains behind one of the coolest and cost-effective art ventures you’ll find.

Nate also happens to be an old friend. When I sat down to talk to him about his passion for shoes, art, and meshing the two into custom wearable pieces, I was fully expecting to tell the story laid out in the Chicago Tribune. But, behind every great entrepreneurial venture is a story that usually goes untold.

Sole Feet Customs is no different. In fact, Nate is a standout example of that untold notion.

Sole Feet Customs

(Image/Nate Freed)

This story starts in Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii, with a beautiful little girl named Mackenzie who was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was three.

Here’s how Freed described their relationship to me.

“Mackenzie is my cousin’s friend, they live in Hawaii. She was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was three, so my Aunt posted on Facebook asking if people would send her cards and well wishes, stuff like that and I asked if I could send her a pair of my shoes.

To this day, they send me pictures of her wearing the shoes all the time and stuff it’s awesome. She’s so strong it amazes me, she’s the screen saver on my phone.”


Mackenzie rocking her Sole Feet. I love it! #curekenzie

A photo posted by @solefeetcustoms on

Nate’s artistic shoes will draw you in, but the story behind them should keep you coming back. After all, it’s what really drove me to keep writing this piece even after the Chicago Tribune stole my thunder.

We’re living in a time in this city where everything is somehow driven by one of its major sports teams.

Chicago is gleaming with Blackhawks colors right now. Lions are wearing hockey helmets and baseball statues are draped in hockey sweaters. It’s absolute madness. But that’s just the surface when it comes to Freed and Sole Feet.

There’s no doubt that Sole Feet has thrived this spring as the Chicago Blackhawks buzz continues to spread everywhere, so we won’t rehash something everyone already knows.

And I won’t hide the fact (and neither will Nate) that Sole Feet Customs is a business first and foremost. Freed hopes to make money from this in his effort to pay for graduate school at DePaul—where he’s attending in the fall.

But as I learned, Sole Feet is about more than eye-popping shoes.

It starts with a girl named Mackenzie – the reason for Nate’s continued passion in restoring and creating custom shoes. And more importantly, one of the inspirations for his wildly-popular new footwear line.

If you’re interested in your own pair of kicks you can reach Nate at Each pair costs $50, and orders can be sent to the aforementioned email address.

Or, you can find Sole Feet on social media:

Facebook: Sole Feet
Instagram: Sole Feet Nate