September 22, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

There’s a devil afoot. Urbanites, models, and celebs (including Gwyneth Paltrow and Heather Graham) are strapping on Nike’s colorful Air Rift sneakers with cloven toes. ”As soon as we get [a shipment], we sell out,” says Patti Silver, owner of L.A.’s Fred Segal Feet. Introduced in 1996 and named after Kenya’s Rift Valley, which produces great barefoot runners, the shoe mimics going sans sneakers, supposedly allowing superior balance, control, and power. But it’s fashion — not function — that’s stealing stylish soles: One Brit media outlet declared them the ”cult fashion shoe for summer 2000.” Though the seasons have changed, the split-toed look isn’t over. Expect to see copycats of Belgian designer Martin Margiela’s $500 cloven-toe leather boots. ”They look great with pants, skirts … anything,” says Silver of Air Rifts. ”I don’t know anyone who actually runs in them.”

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