I have to admit, the first time I saw a JPG of the Adidas JS Roundhouse Mid, I figure some creative photoshopper had come up with a particularly harsh hoax.  But as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Ryan Petzar explains, these shoes are for real.

On Adidas’ Facebook page, the company calls the shoe ‘so hot you [will need to] lock your kicks to your ankles’. Critics, however, say the shoe represents an uncomfortable allusion to the slave trade or the prison system.

Adidas, which sponsors African-American athletes in every major professional sport, says the shoe “is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion, and has nothing to do with slavery.”

The statement adds: “Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted and his previous shoe designs for Adidas Originals have, for example, included panda heads and Mickey Mouse.”

Philadelphia-area sneaker enthusiast Mike Meech describes the shoes as part of a niche market of eccentric kicks.

“Jeremy Scott designed a pair of Adidas with gorillas where the tongue is – are those racist?” Meech said. “The fact is, this ‘controversy’ will probably just make the sneakers more popular. I’m sure Adidas is thrilled with the free promotion.”

Another local sneaker enthusiast, Kofi Biney, said he wasn’t offended by the shoe “in the slightest.”

“It’s manufactured outrage,” Biney said. “The designer even said that [the shoe] was based off a 90s cartoon called My Pet Monster.” 

(UPDATE : Adidas’ Monday evening statement : “We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.”)