Lab Rat

The Per­fect Run­ning Shoe

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By John Lofranco John Lofranco coaches at McGill Olympic Club in Mon­treal and is the di­rec­tor of road rac­ing for Athletics Canada.

“Math Sport’s ini­tial crowd-fund­ing cam­paign sold 500 pairs of shoes at a rea­son­able $100 each.”

It’s an idea, like many great ideas, that is sim­ple. This is one that ev­ery run­ner has con­sid­ered: cus­tom-made run­ning shoes. But com­ing up with ideas is one thing; ex­e­cut­ing them is another. Mathieu Ray­mond, a 28-year-old run­ner from Laval, Que., had this idea, too. And he fol­lowed through with it.

Ray­mond is a lifer. He started run­ning at 10 years old, and was a main­stay on the Que­bec and na­tional scene as an 800m run­ner, reach­ing the podium at the na­tional Le­gion Youth Cham­pi­onships in 2004. He is known as one of the most con­sis­tent pac­ers on the track and has also or­ga­nized road run­ning, cross-coun­try and ob­sta­cle course events in his home­town and in Que­bec City, where he com­pleted his B.A. in ad­min­is­tra­tion and en­trepreneur­ship at Laval Univer­sity.

His com­pany, Math Sport, takes a 3d scan of run­ners’ feet to cre­ate a cus­tom­ized in­sole. Then you can choose your own style and colour of laces, up­per and mid­sole. You also get to choose the drop of the shoe and the thick­ness of the mid­sole. It’s pretty much the run­ner’s dream. I was one of the first peo­ple to buy the shoe, with the goal of sup­port­ing a lo­cal busi­ness, and when the first pair was de­liv­ered, I was im­pressed: it’s now my reg­u­lar train­ing shoe.

How did he go from a great, but sim­ple idea to the com­plex­ity of run­ning shoe pro­duc­tion? First, he hus­tled. To make his dream come true, he needed to find a scan­ner provider, an in­dus­trial de­signer, an over­seas pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity and fi­nan­cial in­vestors. This isn’t a small-time op­er­a­tion: he wants to com­pete with the big names.

He trav­elled over­seas to the ispo show in Mu­nich, the world’s big­gest sports in­dus­try expo, in 2013. “I went to the Vi­bram kiosk,” Ray­mond re­called. “I talked to the only guy avail­able at the time, who hap­pened to be the VP of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for Vi­bram World­wide, and af­ter he heard my story and busi­ness plan, he re­ferred my project to the Vi­bram team in the U.S.”

Sec­ond, he was pa­tient. There were de­lays to his orig­i­nal time­line, but he kept the long-term vi­sion in mind, and didn’t ex­pect things to hap­pen overnight. The con­cept is chal­leng­ing to cus­tomers’ buy­ing habits: we like to go into a store and pick our shoe and walk out. MathS­port gives us the op­por­tu­nity to make our shoe to mea­sure, but it will take a lit­tle more time. Right now, from the mo­ment you cre­ate your shoes to the mo­ment they ar­rive at your door takes about 10 days. He also trav­elled in­ter­na­tion­ally to un­der­stand the mar­ket, and en­tered (and won) sev­eral en­trepreneur­ship con­tests that helped with fund­ing and no­to­ri­ety.

As a re­sult of his pa­tience and hus­tle, he signed his part­ners. PedFor­mance pro­vides the scan­ner tech­nol­ogy to mea­sure run­ners’ feet, Vi­bram makes the soles in Asia, (where the up­pers are made as well) and FM Chaus­sures in Mon­treal does the as­sem­bly.

Math Sport’s ini­tial crowd-fund­ing cam­paign sold 500 pairs of shoes at a rea­son­able $100 each. The re­sponse was in­cred­i­ble to Ray­mond be­cause “no one who bought in had seen the shoes or even a prototype be­cause it didn’t ex­ist at the time. They just be­lieved in the con­cept.”

ABOVE Mathieu Ray­mond, Pres­i­dent of Math Sport

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