There is a condition known as equilibration, which is a restoration of balance or equilibrium. In the run specialty space, that means the current condition of technical running products has been unbalanced with the flood of technologies, materials and constructions that have impacted footwear over the past couple of seasons.
But equilibrium is coming back.
One benefit of the foam technologies, upper constructions and midsole geometries is their availability now to nearly all of the brands. The recent jump forward by some proactive brands has opened the door for factories to provide the same types of services to smaller players. So as more brands join the table to play their hands, the beneficiaries are the running specialty stores — and ultimately the running customers.
One byproduct of the current Supercritical heyday is the entree of small brands doing big things. While there is undoubtedly a limit in the marketplace, there is lots of hopeful thinking and the running public being the optimistic sort, who can really tell where the next Hoka or On Running brand is coming from?
Given the opportunity to roam the aisles for two days at The Running Event 2023 last month in Austin, TX, it was enlightening to see what the brands – large and small – are bringing to market. It revealed a rich tapestry of choices in road, trail and track — here are just a few that really made an impact.
• Adidas Outdoor has a trio of uptempo trail running shoes in the Terrex sub brand known as Agravic, a Latin derivative which means “gravity defying.” Its tiers span the spectrum from the pro level to the warming huts with a running product for all serious trail runners.
• Altra recently introduced its first low drop model, the FWD Experience, while maintaining the remainder of their line in the zero drop range, kind of a big deal with them maintaining a strict zero drop ethos for more than a decade. One refreshing development is a top-to-bottom revamp of the Escalante Racer.
• ASICS’ adoption of fewer parts along with foam-based midsoles has allowed geometries to drive the cushioning of midsoles throughout its line while driving more creative thinking with longtime favorites as well and its newer models. The Novablast 4 is updated as well as the Nimbus 26, each covering slightly different purposes.
• While the Arc’teryx brand has been around for years, the footwear at TRE23 revealed some impressive use of materials, between rock plates, foams and traction. There are many niches in the running world, the question in my mind is, Are there enough?
• Brooks has been busy, really busy with an upgrade across the breadth of the Brooks Running line that was on display at TRE, from road to trail to track. My favorite running choices — all three! New tooling, stacks and uppers reflect the changes and also emphasize the updated focus, as well as serving the spectrum of Brooks Running consumers.
• Diadora, Montebelluna’s best running brand, featured solutions for daily running, offroad and a new tall stack plated racer — not a me-too, but rather informed by recent racing breakthroughs. It joins a good product line up to back the competitive efforts.
• A new brand, Hettas is designed for women’s feet, with feedback from an all-women study to inform the design of its three styles. The design, top-quality materials and model options will satisfy a broad swath of female runners. At least that’s the plan and the brand looks highly likely to find that audience.
• With many years of hiking boot experience, Lowa steps across to trail running with a batch of trail running shoes for men and women. Prepared for a long trail running experience, both in performance as well as business.
• Another new brand at TRE23, Mount to Coast has produced a running shoe that takes advantage of the materials and supercritical foaming process that impressed judges at ISPO, in Munich, Germany, enough to win the prize for best new “shoe.”
• And, finally, there is On Running. A cadre of world-class runners in Colorado, part of the On Athletic Club, acts as a test bed for the creatives at On Running HQ. The result has been part of a burst of performance products that includes On’s supershoe, the Cloudboom. Of course, it has followed up with products for the array of running abilities that have gravitated to the cool brand.