So long, Skechers.  Hello, New Balance.

After a dozen years with Skechers, Meb Keflezighi, one of the most accomplished and visible American distance runners of the 21st century, has inked a new footwear and apparel partnership deal with New Balance.

“I enjoy brands that share my values and New Balance understands the magnitude of what running does,” Keflezighi, who signed with New Balance after considering opportunities with at least five other brands, including Skechers, tells Running Insight+. 

Meb + Skechers

For the last 13 years, “Marathon Meb” and Skechers felt like one and the same. Meb and Skechers Performance Division first teamed up in 2011 after Nike dropped the 2004 Olympic silver medalist from its endorsement roster. The following year, at age 36, Meb won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and finished fourth at the Olympic Marathon in London.

In 2014, Keflezighi enjoyed perhaps his career’s most monumental triumph: winning the Boston Marathon one year after a bombing near the event’s finish line killed three people and injured some 260 more. Sporting Skechers gear head to toe, including GOmeb Speed 3 shoes, Keflezighi generated significant attention for Skechers with his emotional Boston victory – the first for a U.S. man in 31 years. 

Over the ensuing years, Keflezighi’s presence at Skechers helped propel the legitimacy of the brand in running circles while the Performance Division turned out a number of award-winning running models to gain traction with consumers as well as run specialty stores.

“We could not think of a better Skechers Performance brand ambassador than Meb,” Skechers Performance Division VP–merchandising and marketing Rick Higgins said in 2014.

Keflezighi was effusive in his praise of Skechers and grateful for his lengthy run with the brand. Skechers, he says, gave him an opportunity to extend his career and champion the sport, even after he retired from competitive racing in 2017.

“I had wonderful experiences with Skechers and I hope they’d say the same about me,” Keflezighi says. “We started together and did some amazing things to elevate running and promote the sport.”

A new era with New Balance

As the expiration of his current deal with Skechers neared, however, Keflezighi and his long-time agent and younger brother, Hawi Keflezighi, began exploring their options. Keflezighi favors long-term partnerships with his sponsors – a reality evident in his deals with brands like UCAN and CEP Compression (in photo below) – and insists on partnerships that go “beyond product.”

 New Balance emerged a top target given its longevity, commitment to the sport and involvement with the New York City Marathon, where the brand is the event’s official footwear and apparel partner. Keflezighi retains strong ties to the New York Road Runners and, by extension, the city’s marathon, where he is a three-time podium finisher.

“I believe we can promote the greatness of the sport together,” he says, adding that New Balance has pledged support to the MEB Foundation and Keflezighi’s efforts to tout health and fitness, particularly at the grassroots level.

“I love running and want to be involved in the sport and inspiring people to be the best version of themselves,” Keflezighi says. “That’s a philosophy New Balance and I share.”

Keflezighi and New Balance began their journey together in earnest over this past weekend in Boston, culminating in Keflezighi’s return to the marathon after a six-year absence. Keflezighi raced from Hopkinton to Boylston Street with a pair of the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite on his feet.

“To mark the 10-year anniversary of my Boston win, I wanted to be on the street with my fellow runners,” says Keflezighi, calling the memories of April 21, 2014, fresh in his mind. “There were 36,000 runners that day showing resilience, redemption and courage to own our streets and I was fortunate to lead them to the finish line.”