AGE OF CONTROL
Following the success of the Brooks Vantage, other brands began to incorporate more aggressive motion-control features into their products. In 1982, two shoes simultaneously introduced a new idea that would represent a sea change in running-shoe design. The Tiger X-caliber GT featured a ‘stabilising pillar’ under the arch side of the heel, while the Brooks Chariot featured an angled wedge of harder-density foam in the midsole,
thicker on the inside of the shoe and tapering toward the outside. Both features were representative of the ‘medial post’ that is still built into stability shoes today.
Stability quickly became a prime consideration for runners. ‘People were making a strong link between pronation and injury,’ says Bartold. Choosing shoes became similar to getting an eye test for glasses, a process of matching the level of support that was necessary for your pronation problem.
The Chariot would evolve into the Beast, and the X-caliber GT morphed into the Asics Kayano – both of which live on today. With the defining characteristic of shoes now established, little of significance happened for the next two decades. Materials improved, but there was no game-changing innovation. The focus shifted to marketing.
Shorten points to the first ‘visible’ Nike Air Max shoe, in 1989, as the turning point. ‘From then on, everybody had to have visible technology. Whether it was gel, grid or hydro-flow, everybody had to have their little bit of goop and it had to be visible.’
More was more during the 1990s. ‘The more bells and whistles you could put into shoes, the better,’ says Shane Downey, global director of Brooks Heritage. Turner recalls the era as delivering ‘an awful lot of hype, but nothing functional that improved the ability to run.’
THE RW GUIDES When Amby Burfoot became editor-in-chief of Runner’s World in the US in the mid1980s, he discovered that the shoe industry was seriously questioning RW’S evaluation methods. ‘They pointed out that the shoe is an entire system, with all of the pieces working together,’ says Burfoot. ‘On top of that, you throw in the individual characteristics of the runner.’
Burfoot’s deputy editor, Bob Wischnia, agreed: ‘Machines don't wear shoes, people do, and how can a shoe be number one if it doesn’t work for everybody?’ So, RW beefed up the wear-testing process and, reflecting the industry emphasis on pronation, the new guides presented shoes in categories of Motion Control, Stability, Neutral-cushioned and Lightweight. These categories were widely adopted by manufacturers, influencing how shoes were marketed to runners and presented in running stores.
1993 Asics Gel-kayano Trainer epitomises the high-tech, cushioned and stable era. The line continues today.