Evolving the Shoe, Evolving the Terrain

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I occasionally receive the odd running-related press release, and got an interesting one from Mizuno recently, announcing a couple of new running shoes – the Wave Rider 16 and Wave Inspire 9 – the two being quite similar but with the latter being more of a support shoe and a fraction (10g) heavier.

The shoes look the part as you would expect, and are appropriately vividly coloured and styled – very much the trend these days, and why not – at this time of year, much of the time it’s dark when I’m running, and it makes sense to be as visible as possible.

Anyway I mention the shoes for three reasons.

Firstly I’m impressed that this is the 16th iteration of the Wave Rider shoe. Mizuno clearly know they are on to a good thing – not launching a new brand every year or so, but instead evolving a well known one. The average running shoe only lasts for 3-400 miles so a typical club runner might need to buy a new one twice a year. If the shoe is good, then the club runner will not want to change it for another brand if the old one is no longer available – they might just as easily change the manufacturer altogether, but they would much prefer to stick the name of the shoe that they know – shoes are the critical tool for a runner. So, give them what they want, and take the opportunity to refine it.

But you also need to keep new people discovering the manufacturer and brand, and also update the look to keep it looking new and relevant. So – relaunch it!

The second reason I mention is that I got a rather nice Mizuno freebie – which just happened to be a Wave Rider 15 – during the launch of an unrelated training shoe by them, earlier this year. Like the new shoes here, it wasn’t a subtle shoe – purple and lime green. When added to my red, white and blue running tops, the look is somewhat psychedelic. But it’s a very comfortable shoe and has become my current running shoe of choice. This is partly due to superstition – I started wearing my previous new shoe when I hadn’t fully recovered from an injury, and I put the resulting niggles down to the shoe and not my injury – d’oh. But it’s surprising just how superstitious you can be when it comes to injuries.

Anyway, long story short, I’ve been very pleased with my “v15” Wave Rider the last few months – I even took it to the Venice Street Race in November, although Venice was underwater at the time* so there was not much running involved, and it could well be the v16 that I end up getting next, when the current one wears out – or maybe there will even be a v17 by then? It looks like the Wave Riders will be evolving for a while yet.

The third reason is the that PR came with some photos, of runners running in the shoes, like you would expect. But the locations strongly reminded me of urban orienteering races. None of the running in the photos is taking place on roads, but instead they are along the seafront, through building courtyards, along garden paths – all the places where the best urban orienteering takes places. The campaign’s ad (short video – 30s) even includes the runner ascending some external stairs – very Barbican. You could easily imagine a control in each of these photos. In fact I very nearly doctored the photos to add one in the background. I don’t think Mizuno would have been too impressed at that though.

I’m planning a big urban orienteering race – in fact the second biggest standalone one in the world – next September. It might even be the biggest in the world next year, because the traditional incumbent, Venice, has got cancelled in 2013, after some concerns were raised during this year’s flooded race. Details of the race I’m planning will be up at the end of this month – all I can say for now is that it will have a distinctly watery feel to it. As the planner, I get to pick where the control sites go. And I’ll certainly be aiming to pick ones like the sorts shown in the photos here.

* Resulting in a rather saline shoe now. I’m not sure if it would survive a wash cycle.

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