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The battle to shut down trainer counterfeiting operations is becoming harder and harder as illicit traders move online.

Nike shoes are the most counterfeited item in the world – thanks to the distinctive swoosh and a demand from young people for expensive products on the cheap.

In the past, it was easier to tackle because street traders could be spotted and arrested.

But now there’s a booming, lucrative online marketplace for the trainers, which is increasingly difficult to shut down.

One teenage sneaker fan told The Independent: “I buy counterfeit trainers because the retail price on shoes is too high. For the money you pay, the quality is almost identical to authentic shoes.”

Ariele Elia, assistant curator at The Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, told Complex: “The internet completely changed everything. People don’t actually buy [a counterfeit item] physically in the store, but they’ll probably buy it online and have it shipped to their house.”

Big cargo freights are also much easier for customs authorities to catch at the border than individual packages sent through the postal service – especially a small, relatively light shoebox.

Illicit online retailers are also smart at throwing authorities off their trail by sending items through roundabout routes.

It’s not just websites; counterfeiters use a range of platforms including WhatsApp to push their illegal wares – which is particularly appealing to young trainer fans.

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