The RW Team just returned from a few days in Austin, Texas attending The Running Event, an annual trade show open to running specialty retailers from around the country. It features all of the top brands displaying many of their newest products and concepts. Here’s an overview of some of the new products we found of particular interest.
Mizuno: The Mizuno footwear line for Fall 2011 are out of the park. Mizuno did a fantastic job across the board of improving upper materials and an introduction of nice, bright colors both in the uppers and midsoles, which make these shoes not only stand out, but the quality of the shoes themselves is fantastic. A couple of exciting introductions include the new Mizuno Wave Enigma. Essentially a Wave Rider Plus. Nicer upper materials than the Wave Rider, more use of Mizuno’s top shelf technologies and a very nice color treatment make this plush neutral model a serious contender to the top high end neutral franchises within the industry including the Asics Nimbus, Brooks Glycerin, Nike Vomero and Saucony Triumph. A really nice introduction.
The other red hot introduction is the updated Mizuno Wave Universe 4. Same midsole/outsole as the current Universe 3, but with a new vibrant orange upper with a few welded black flame overlays. Same 3.6 oz weight as the current version, but with a much more aggressive upper. Add the tie-in to Mizuno’s new Global Elite apparel line-up of lightweight, high-tech, race-inspired apparel, which is also available in orange and black, and you have a very hot head-to-toe package. Speaking of apparel, Mizuno’s lineup of women’s apparel for Fall 2011 is very, very good. If you’ve been a fan of Mizuno apparel in the past or looking for something new, you’ll love the offerings for Fall 2011.
Saucony: Riding on the tails of the extremely popular Kinvara, Saucony continues to expand their minimal lineup. Coming this fall is the ProGrid Cortana, a more supportive version of the upcoming Mirage. Reminiscent of the original Reebok Ventilator from the early 90’s, the Saucony Cortana features what appears to be a plastic cookie under the arch area of the outsole to enhance stability. The Cortana is definitely more supportive than the Mirage, but neither of them should belong in the full on “support” category, as they are both built with the Kinvara DNA of minimalism. Guidance is probably a more appropriate term for these models.
Another interesting model is the Saucony Hattori. A 4.4 Oz. Zero heel drop trainer that offers a velcro strap closure, and not much in the way of a midsole. The Hattori will be the most minimal model in the Saucony line. Given Saucony’s distribution, this should prove a formidable challenger to the smaller brands making Minimal products by virtue of the sheer number of running specialty doors Saucony has open. Saucony should be a serious player in this category right out of the gate.
Salomon: Some great updates due out late next year for Salomon. First up a lightweight, neutral version of the soon to be released XR Crossmax. While the XR Crossmax is designed to be used for the bulk of a runner’s miles, the new lightweight version initially named the XR Mission is designed for harder intervals, hill reps or tempo runs that happen be done on trails. A really nice shoe. Expect to see a version of this shoe for Spring/Summer of 2012.
The S-Lab has several new additions due in next fall. First up is the Fellcross, a super lightweight fell racing model that features a very aggressive outsole and next to no midsole. Also new to the S-Lab lineup is the XT Wings Softground which features a much more aggressive outsole than the current XT Wings and a killer upper. The Speedcross updates with a decrease in the heel height of 4mm (while maintaining the current forefoot height), the removal of the medial post and the addition of two new Speedcross models. The Speedcross 3 ClimaShield, a water resistance version for racing in wet conditions. Also, there may be a Speedcross with metal studs inserted in the outsole appropriately named the Spikecross for icy conditions.
Brooks: Rumor from the Brooks camp circles around a new lineup of shoes that addresses the minimal movement, but in a unique way. Brooks feels that most runners may not necessarily want to change shoes that have worked for them in the past, but many may be open to trying models that retain the same support and cushioning characteristics of the shoes they are having success with, but at a significant weight savings. Imagine a 9.0 oz Adrenaline. Interesting concept – we’ll report more as we get word.
Nike: Couple of interesting developments in the land of Swoosh. The new Waffle Racer looks very, very nice. Think of a slightly more built up Victory XC with a few more welded overlays and a more generous fit available in spiked or spikeless versions and you have the new Waffle Racer. For $50, this shoe will crush. The LunarGlide+ 3 get’s a new upper which should improve the fit.
John Truax the man behind development of Nike running footwear passed around various stages of a new midsole that may or may not become the basis of a new Lunar Structure that would replace the current Structure Triax. The new concept revolves around the Lunar concept of a softer foam material surrounded by a more supportive carrier foam. In the case of the current Lunar product the firmer carrier foam is one unit, while the softer foam unit is a separate unit that fits neatly inside. The samples John passed around was a single piece of foam that had softer foam injected with the firmer foam that has the same effect as the original Lunar concept, but offers great support and the same lightweight, flexible package Lunar is known for. John also passed around an early test model that Galen Rupp is testing, basically an existing Structure upper and a early prototype of the new Lunar Structure midsole/outsole. Rupp said he loves the new model which according to him offers a similar level of support, but a lighter, more responsive and flexible shoe. The shoe is still a long ways away, it’ll require much more testing and refinement, but the shoe looks very promising
What we took away from the 2010 Running Event was a trend by the major shoe companies to trend towards making their offerings lighter, increasing flexibility and making a line up of shoes that are more responsive. Not totally minimal, but instead a lighter weight, more responsive version of the shoes many have had success with originally.