By Lee Hopkins
Over the last 15 years we have watched technology and style develop in the running shoe industry.
Go back to 2003 and the number one selling shoe was the more stable Asics 2090 (we now call it the 2000) and stability shoes reigned supreme. We were about 3 years into the Brooks Adrenaline GTS (the Go To Shoe) and slowly each year Brooks would take over the industry with equal representation in each running shoe category. The Mizuno Wave Rider and Nike Pegasus were the top selling Neutral cushioned shoes. The great thing is 15 years, later they are still around innovating and pushing the envelope.
We have seen shoe trends come and go. The first that stands out is the less is more movement with natural running. In 2005 we saw Nike bring out the light and flexible Nike Free Run and soon after the Vibram Five Fingers came into popularity. Yes the less is more movement came on fast and brought about a significant change in running shoes. Brooks put out the pure series and New Balance launched their Minimus line. With time as the trend balanced out we saw the neutral (less supportive) running shoes start to take over the shoe wall.
With that movement also came the fringe brands at the time like Hoka, Altra, Newton, and then later On Running. Hoka made it cool to have cushion, and a lot of it. They provided a shoe that helped posture and technique without sacrificing comfort. Altra was able to provide a more accommodating foot-shape toe box that also focused on technique and comfort. The On Running brand provided a shoe that not only felt good but looked great as well focusing on the same principles as all the other technical brands.
Also developing in recent years is how we are given cushion and the fit of the shoe. Adidas reinvented themselves at just the right time in 2012 with the Boost cushion. The Boost cushion provided a more blended cushion that better reacts to impact while providing a softer, smoother ride. With that invention we saw Saucony, Brooks, New Balance and everyone follow with their take on a more blended, softer ride.
We saw less structure and overlay on the upper as well. As the shoe began to fit more like a sock we saw all brands strive to develop a more seamless fit. Thanks to New Balance and their forward thinking we also have been given the options of widths in all the key shoe models in most brands!
There is also much more of an overlap in categories. Gone are the days of just a supportive shoe (stability) or a shoe with no support and just cushioning (neutral). With the Brooks Ravenna and Saucony Guide we saw the guidance category take shape; the best of both worlds for the person who wanted support but needed very little.
The runner’s search became less about brand or category and more about their specific need. What has not changed is the pursuit of the runner.
As a runner/walker we want our feet to be happy. With all of these brands bringing their best game forward, runners no longer have to settle but can find the very shoe, the holy grail of shoes, and months later get the same thing or just continue the search.
Lee Hopkins is happily a retail “lifer”. He has been helping customers and encouraging them in their active, running journey since 2007. Most days you can find him working at Run N Tri Outfitters in Wake where he is honored to work with great people following their mission to help all that walk through their doors.