Top Tech in the Spotlight.
New Balance Re-Fuels in Performance Running
New Balance is focusing on speed and energy return with FuelCell, its new performance running footwear platform. Two years in development by the company’s Innovation Design Studio, the idea behind FuelCell is “to make fast athletes faster.”
The new FuelCell footwear line features what the brand describes as “the highest rebound properties” of any New Balance performance foam. The first FuelCell shoe launched on Global Running Day in early June, with the FuelCell Rebel. New styles will continue to drop throughout the fall. The FuelCell line will range in price from $100 for the FuelCell Echo to $200 for the FuelCell 5280 — a road racing flat that is the pinnacle product in the line.
“This was one of the most fun, but focused shoe projects we’ve ever done,” Danny Orr, New Balance’s strategic business unit manager for performance and innovation says.
New Balance focused on propulsion, traction, lightweight and fit when developing the performance running shoe range, including a 40-degree angle at the toe to pitch the wearer forward and help with better running form.
New Balance athletes Jenny Simpson and Jake Wightman, both of whom were involved in the design of the FuelCell 5280, spoke to us about the shoe and the R&D process.
“The 5280 not only helps professional runners run faster but it will help everyone run faster,” says Wightman. “It’s the best road flat I’ve ever worn.”
Simpson says it was “special” to be a part of a project whose initial concept was about building a shoe specifically to meet her demands and needs as a world-class miler. In addition to lab testing, both athletes tested it in last September’s 5th Avenue Mile, a world class one-mile road race held in NYC, which Wightman won on the men’s side and Simpson on the women’s. “That is the ultimate test,” Simpson says. “You can’t replicate the demands of a race in a lab, so wearing it and winning the 5th Avenue Mile — it passed the ultimate test.”
A closer look at the FuelCell platform:
• FuelCell 5280: Speed without spikes, built from data from Team New Balance’s fastest road milers. The FuelCell 5280 features a multidirectional carbon fiber plate designed to flex and accept the runner at initial contact and stiffen for superior propulsion at toe-off. MSRP $200.
• FuelCell Rebel: Made for runners who are ready to take their run to the next level, with energy return optimized, speed when needed. This model features FuelCell technology in the forefoot to create a high-rebound but lightweight running experience. MSRP $130.
• FuelCell Propel: Everyday energy return. The FuelCell Propel is built for a speedy ride, using the high rebound FuelCell midsole foam that delivers underfoot liveliness and springy responsiveness. MSRP $110.
• FuelCell Echo: Fast and stylish, a lower profile, more streamlined silhouette for runners that want to be quick on their feet. Designed with a TPU heel counter for performance lock down, this road runner sits above a supportive, full-length FuelCell midsole. MSRP $100.
Mizuno’s Got Some Pop
Mizuno’s new $160 Wave Sky Waveknit 3 targets high-mileage runners who want some style and “pop” in their kicks. It is the brand’s first running shoe to feature XPOP foam technology — delivering extra comfort underfoot with a combo of Mizuno Foam Wave and XPOP that aims to offer an all-new “floating” experience. The brand says it gives runners an extra bouncy feel from heel to toe. A Waveknit upper construction allows for a stable hold, yet flexible fit that supports natural foot movement through its dynamic sock-like fit. Constructed without reinforcements in the midfoot, the wave vectors seen throughout the Wave Sky Waveknit 3 work as hold areas, compensating for the stretch in other areas of the knit to maintain the proper support.
On Hits the Trail
The On Cloudventure Peak is not just a trail running shoe, it is described as a “trail racer.” Built for runners looking for a lightweight trail competition shoe with downhill cushioning, the $149.99 Fall 2019 style features the “aggressive bite” of a Missiongrip outsole, along with a high-torsion Speedboard and shock-absorbing cloud heels. A breathable, durable stretch mesh upper and a sock-like construction ensures precision fit and comfort. “Comfort is the absolute most important factor in a trail running shoe or light hiking boot,” says Caspar Coppetti, On co-founder. “On’s engineering approach is to bring the fit, lightness and overall comfort of our running shoe to the outdoors.”
Topo’s Spring 2020 Zephyr
New materials are trending right now in the running and outdoor footwear space, says Tony Post, CEO and founder of Topo Athletics. “There’s a lot of experimentation happening with TPU or TPU/EVA blends in midsole foams to make them more light, resilient, cushy and responsive,” he says. “Outsole rubber options have expanded significantly: blown rubber, different composition rubbers, or more focus on wet slip resistance. Upper meshes are now engineered to offer more options for optimizing breathability where you want it and security where you need it. It has reduced the need for overlays, and thus weight, and makes the shoe feel like a more natural extension of the body, especially when paired with new printing techniques. These new offerings combined enable us to build shoes that provide more specific benefits to meet an athlete’s optimal performance needs. However, despite these exciting innovations in materials, I do believe that it’s important as a brand to not get caught up in the technology and to always keep durability and craftsmanship at the core of every product.”
Coming in Spring 2020 from Topo Athletic, the $130 Zephyr road running shoe has an elastomer stability plate that runs inside the midsole, helping stabilize the forefoot and aid propulsion during plantar ﬂexion. A breathable mesh upper secures the heel and midfoot while allowing plenty of room for toes to spread and splay.
Altra’s Kid Play
The best-selling trail shoe from Altra will soon be available for kids — a move made by popular demand from its customers, according to the brand. Designed to replicate the adult Lone Peak, the kids version of the Lone Peak, set to launch in November at a retail price of $70, features Altra’s signature FootShape toe box and balanced cushioning. The brand sees these two features as key to helping children’s feet grow properly while staying strong and functional. A removable insole allows extra room for growing feet, as well. Similar to the adult version, the Youth Lone Peak has a grippy outsole with a mesh upper. It has a 17 mm stack height. It will be joined in the brand’s kids’ offerings by the Altra Kokiri for road/everyday use.
Hoka’s Next Speedgoat
The Speedgoat trail runner from Hoka One One is among its most popular styles. It is named for athlete Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer. For Spring 2020, the fourth edition of the style will feature a new breathable yet rugged mesh, 3D printed overlays for increased midfoot support and an overall more secure feel, with a more accommodating fit in the toe box for a more comfortable ride. It is designed to be grippy on the uphill and secure on the downhill. MSRP $145.
A New Kind of Performance from Gore-Tex and UA
A brand new fabric technology is being introduced by Gore-Tex in a new Under Armour running top this summer.
When most consumers think of Gore-Tex, the company’s waterproof technology is what comes to mind. But Gore-Tex is moving into performance areas beyond that and the new Breeze running shirt from Under Armour showcases one aspect of this new direction.
To backtrack a bit: In Fall/Winter 2018, W.L. Gore & Associates broadened its Gore-Tex brand to include apparel and footwear technologies offering other kinds of performance beyond the waterproof category. It placed these new technologies under the Gore-Tex Infinium umbrella. One of the newest Infinum technologies is Gore-Tex Infinium Performance Fiber technology, which is what is launching in the UA shirt. It’s a fabric tech that has been developed with runners in mind.
A single jersey knit made with a blended polyester/ePTFE yarn, Gore-Tex Infinium Performance Fiber technology offers moisture-management and fast drying performance benefits. It also results in a super-light, ultra-soft fabric with high air flow.
According to Gore-Tex, the specific benefits of the fabric include: Low moisture pick-up and faster dry-out; Lightweight; High Air Permeability: Softness and low cling next-to-skin feel.
The Right Fit for Tecnica
With its new $170 Origin trail running shoe, Tecnica is focusing on customizable fit. The fit process for the Origin utilizes a proprietary in-store thermo-molding process that takes 15 minutes. There are four variations of the shoe with different levels of support and cushioning. A digital app assists specialty retailers in selecting the right version of the shoe for individual consumers. Once the model selection is made, the shoe upper and footbed can be thermo-molded to the feet of each customer using Tecnica’s patent pending Custom Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.) Machine.
Brooks Cascadia 14: A Go-To Trail Shoe
Designed for “trail runners of any kind” and delivering SUV-like stability, the latest version of Brooks’ popular Cascadia trail running shoe is the Fall 2019 Cascadia 14. “We know that more runners are trail running than ever before, and we’ve created our Cascadia shoe to speak to seasoned trail veterans as well as first timers,” says Jon Teipen, Brooks senior manager of footwear product line management. The $130 shoe combines an updated Pivot Post system with BioMoGo DNA midsole material that adapts to a runner’s unique weight and stride to offer smoother transitions. A new TrailTack sticky rubber compound enhances grip.