Running Shoes Are Getting Personal
The customization of running shoes from Brooks Running to Salomon and even Nike and New Balance is starting to make what’s on your feet a very personal matter. Is all this technology where your running shoes are concerned a good or bad thing? Let’s find out.
Jill Murphy and her husband Tim own a specialty running shoe store called Fleet Feet Sports in Longmeadow, Mass. and have seen this trend coming for years. Since the Murphys are so immersed in the running shoe industry, we reached out to get their take on the customization of our most important piece of running gear.
“At Fleet Feet Sports, we are using 3D scanning technology called Fit ID to look at each foot individually,” Jill Murphy told us via email. “We have already captured over 250,000 foot scans in our stores nationwide!”
The scanning technology allows Fleet Feet to consider a number of measurements when choosing the right shoe for an individual, including arch height, ball girth, instep height, heel width and other measurements which weren’t previously as quantifiable as they are now. “These scans will eventually be used to fully customize a customer’s shoes,” Murphy said.
This customization is reaching far beyond colors, patterns and monograms, moving into the small details in the heart of running shoe engineering to which only elites had decision-making access until recently. Tweaks in the heel-to-toe drop ratio and changes in midsole or upper materials are now options for those that can afford it. Even so, these adjustments are mostly made for comfort, rather than for any kind of form correction. Customized shoes are basically made for you as you are and as you run, biomechanical flaws and all.
“At this point, shoe customization through 3D printing is developing,” Murphy explained, “but not yet ready for delivery to the masses.” They do, however, expect specific shoe models to be available later this year from companies such as Brooks Running and New Balance.
However, personalization from affordable, customized inserts is already happening and “can go a long way in customizing fit,” Murphy said. “At Fleet Feet Sports, our relationship with Superfeet, combined with our Fit ID technology, is going to make customized inserts easily accessible in the very near future.”
As with any running trend, there will be good and bad outcomes, early adopters and nonconformists alike throughout the running community. (Remember the minimalist craze?) Still, Murphy sees this particular trend as positive across the board, not a passing fad. “Most people have significant enough differences between their own two feet that it can make choosing a pair of shoes difficult,” she said. “For example, their right foot may work best with one brand while their left foot may prefer another–customization will help with this.”
One thing is for sure: the future of running shoes will be more personal than ever, and will hopefully lead to an expanded base of knowledge for runners.