Runner's World (UK) - - Shoe History -

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.

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