The energy generated by The Running Event comes from a level of fitness that is a bit rare at most business trade shows. Sure, other conferences have enthusiastic speakers, but if they ran a 5K one morning of the show would the winner be under eight minutes per mile, let alone under five? And what would get them there?
Performance running footwear sits at the heart The Running Event, held Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Austin, TX. Nearly every brand with a presence in run specialty shops claims a spot on the show floor, eagerly displaying and discussing its upcoming products.
And many of those same footwear models were seen speeding around the Circuit of the Americas at Thursday morning’s Indie 5K, including the Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro that served as the event’s feature shoe.
Most of them even looked fast just sitting on the displays around the Austin Convention Center, so with that kind of encouragement who wouldn’t be ready to launch into full stride. Here is a snapshot of 15 of the shoes/brands from two days of touring the booths of the Running Event that will make an impact at retail in 2023.
The progress the brand has made on several fronts, from upper materials, films, and constructs; to the wide variety of midsole foams and processes, geometric solutions and plates, have created something for everyone. The Centauri incorporates a pelletized midsole of Dow Engage for protective daily training, joining the Fierce – a moderately tall stack model for recovery miles – and their plated racer, the Flame, on the road in a literal footrace. They have a little something for many runners with more on the way.
The running footwear teams at Adidas have developed a pretty impressive lineup of running shoes during the pandemic and beyond. I don’t use the term “plethora” lightly, but at The Running Event this year it seems appropriate to consider it because there were shoes for niches in running, racing, trail, cross-country, marathoning and track... you get the picture. One shoe that caught my attention was the SL, a sturdy performer that can stack on the miles but with an eye on the budget, an area that seems to have taken a beating since last year’s show. Look for a wave of three striped footwear cascading to market in the coming months.
The Altra story – zero drop and foot shaped toebox – continues to resonate with the brand, as well as with the stores and the runners that have buoyed their sales and success. Highlighted was the Rivera 3 with a slightly narrower forefoot profile, but still foot shaped, and with a nice blend of cushion and response from its Altra Ego foam. No faulty cylinders here as all are firing well and with precision, thank you very much.
The Mystery Shoe, what could it be? Environmentally friendly, tall stack, supercritical foam, responsive, protective and pretty cool. Clever marketing to be sure. Our sneak peek was a good one, but our short editorial deadline and publishing schedule leaves the reveal to another source, dear readers. When you see it elsewhere, know that you’ll be as impressed as we were. But, with that said, the Superblast is the latest tall stack cruiser to consider from the land of the rising sun.
Industriousness extends from the president to customer service and all in between. While they have continued to build on their entire line, one new shoe in particular stands out because of the niche it fills. The new Hyperion Max is testament to the pipeline of success that shows in their shoes and provides a daily tall stack trainer, sans carbon plate, for a plush running experience from its super-critical foam.
Craft’s rise to footwear proficiency may surprise some, but there is always a magician behind the curtain making things happen, regardless of the size of the company. Round three of footwear for Craft shows the steady progression that comes from the combination of skill and planning, which their combined experience has delivered. The CTM series will continue to turn heads that have not observed Craft’s steady progress and I expect to cover more than a few miles (and even more kilometers) in the new Nordlite Ultra, which makes use of a supercritical foam which Craft denotes as Cr.
Innovation and consistency are the two watchwords of Hoka as a brand. Originally in a disruptive mode, tall stack shoes in a sea of minimalism, their current position is akin to a World Cup contender, it’s all about execution. There are new updates in racing, as well as trail. The Rocket X 2 – des rigueur for a fast half-marathon or marathon – is newly fashioned from upper to sole with carbon fiber for racing performance. A new upper goes to the Tecton X, last season’s carbon trail speedster.
8. NEW BALANCE
Between their sponsorship of the New York Marathon and their impressive new facility, called simply The Track, running is infused through the genetic code of New Balance. They have a focus across the board, so there is something for all kinds of running from racing to trail, daily running, tempos and paces between. The Super Comp Trainer 2 updates last year’s innovation for the brand, and manages the faster training for the marathon , as well as doubling as a racing shoe for the masses.
Mizuno captured eyeballs at TRE with the unveiling of its uber-distinctive Wave Rebellion Pro. The result of Mizuno’s Smooth Speed Project, the sprint spike-inspired Rebellion Pro is aimed at helping marathon runners and integrates a few different innovations into one daring model. Featured materials include Mizuno Enerzy Lite and Mizuno Enerzy Lite+ midsole foams, a carbon-infused nylon plate and a new geometric midsole design with a carved-away heel. And how about this fun fact on the Rebellion Pro’s Kakizome print colorway spotlighted on the show floor: like a fingerprint, every midsole aesthetic is different, the result of a hand-splattered paint process employed during production.
Trail running is once again a Nike focus in response to other plated trail shoes, though with a Swooshy twist. The assigned moniker seems as long as the trail – Nike ZoomX Ultrafly Trail – though is at least descriptive. The midsole features Air and a carbon plate for protection and performance. The longtime waffle tread, that Nike is perhaps most noted for (well, along with Air), is affixed to the midsole for traction, just as the spirit of Bill Bowerman intended with his waffle iron.
The range of running shoes from On Running is expanding. Not only that, but they are also morphing as they continue to chase performance. The Cloud’s outersole elements, which deform to cushion the foot, are taking on more ovoid shapes to conform efficiently when contacting the ground, for both cushioning and propulsion. The upper constructions and treatments are also upgrading to better fit, breathe and repel the elements and weather.
The efforts by Puma, over the past couple of years have resulted in an unveiling of new products that have created considerable interest. The stir has been a bit surprising because of the brands’ series of stops and starts in running. The release of well-designed and engineered products have returned the spotlight’s focus back on runners. The supercritical foams and high-quality designs have created an increasing line of shoes for more runners. This season features the ForeverRun Nitro, a versatile running shoe that extends Nitro to the stability category.
Prior to Reebok’s spin-off from Adidas there was some genuine innovation around a number of sustainable practices, which produced some very effective running shoes, including a couple models which were as close to truly sustainable as we have yet seen. Their focus continues to concentrate efforts on producing, among other things, some very good running shoes which incorporate materials and designs that lightly touch the environment, while paying homage to their past.
The running line in Skechers Performance division has been managed effectively for runners of all shapes and sizes. The early adoption of several key technologies, thanks to an agile, efficient and well-connected team has given them a jump in performance that has not slowed, as many of these advances have spread across other brands. New processes and applications, such as the coming season’s pelletized foams, and efficient geometries have kept the hits coming, much to the benefit of runners over all distances.
A new company that differentiates itself from its competing brands by taking physics to another level. Each model is designed to accommodate the difference in forces based on the pace a runner is traveling. Well-made and nicely finished, they received a fair bit of attention at The Running Event, with runners trying out the shoes for a quick run around a corner of the exhibition hall to experience the feel of the shoes. Time will tell whether the launch concept is a success, but the science is sound and the product is good, so that is a step in the right direction.