Don't change my shoe! This is something we hear often from customers, and we feel the same way! Scroll down for a good read!
Don't Change My Shoe!
The best thing that can happen to a runner is finding a shoe that they love. The worst thing is learning that their favorite shoe is changing. Footwear companies are in fierce competition with each other. Today’s hot products land in tomorrow’s bargain bin when trendy colors, construction, and materials sway consumer preferences and drive how businesses market and manufacture their new lines. Sometimes runners welcome these changes. Sometimes they don’t. Take the midsole. It’s the foundation of a shoe. Even the tiniest tweak in construction or materials can throw off a runner’s gait and increase their risk of injury. The midsole supports a runner’s weight one stride at a time while absorbing a great amount of force while keeping muscles, tendons, and ligaments properly balanced and in sync. It’s no wonder that when runners find a shoe that works perfectly for them, they want it to stay that way forever. Change is a constant in any industry, including athletic footwear. But that doesn’t mean that change can’t be reversed. Mark Coddaire, owner of Marx Running and Fitness in Acton, Mass., convinced a little-known footwear company to reintroduce a discontinued shoe with a surprising cult following—a shoe that had helped Mark rapidly recover from a back injury. In the spring of 2016, a sales rep introduced Mark to a brand he’d never heard of—361 Degrees. Mark accepted an evaluation pair of 361 shoes but had no intention of running in them (and no interest working with what he thought was a start-up). The rep called weekly to ask how the evaluation was going, and Mark explained each time that he wasn’t interested in adding the shoes to his store’s mix. But while watching the 2016 Olympic summer games, Mark noticed 361 everywhere: on shoes, swim caps, banners, and sponsored athletes. After a bit of research, he discovered 361 was no start-up—it was a major Chinese footwear brand with a US division led by a former Asics executive. Mark ordered a small quantity of one model, the Voltar, and the shoes started selling well in his store. By winter of 2017, 361 released the Sensation 2, a shoe with the same midsole as the Voltar but with a slightly different upper. Mark had hurt his back in January and started running again in February, giving a pair of Sensation 2’s a try. He fell in love with the shoe’s support, and by April he was back to running up to 50 miles a week, crediting the Sensation 2’s to his speedy recovery. When Mark compared the Sensation 2 with his former favorite, the Brooks Defyance, he found that the new shoes gave him the same stability as the Brooks but were lighter and had a softer touch. By spring, the Sensation 2’s were flying out the door, and very few local retailers were carrying 361 products—both great things for Mark and his store. But good things don’t always last. Mark found out that 361 was planning to restyle the Sensation 2, renaming it as the Sensation 3 and replacing much of what made the shoe work for him. Mark contacted 361 to better understand the changes and see if there was any chance of keeping the Sensation 2 in production, as the shoe gained a rabid fanbase, and he bought up as much inventory as he could to keep the shoe on his shelves. In the winter of 2018, 361 asked Mark to partner with them for the upcoming Boston Marathon Expo. During the expo, Mark stressed how much he wanted to see the Sensation 2’s stay in production, and by October he had bought all of the remaining inventory in the US. He had also hired a doctorate physical therapy student out of UMass Lowell to assist him with gait analysis and shoe evaluation, and together they developed an evaluation system to capture the Sensation 2’s benefits to his customers. His persistence paid off. In December, 361 told Mark that their European division had decided to fuse the most important part of the Sensation 2—the mid-sole—with a slightly wider upper. They’d call this new model the Nemesis, and they handed Mark exclusive US rights to carry the shoe. Sometimes a change can be a good thing. Mark still has a limited inventory of Sensation 2’s (and plenty of Nemesis) along with a full suite of 361 and other major brands.