What Are Brands Doing to MY Running Shoes

Whine Alert – Yes I am doing a little bit of whining here.

Yesterday, I was reading my RSS Feeds and Seth Goodin – who often has very thought-provoking posts, had an excellent one You are not the lowest common denominator and it got me to thinking about running shoes and the companies that bring these technological marvels to us runners.

Honestly, I can say that I have no brand loyalty or as Seth put it – have allowed any lock-in by any of the running shoe companies that are out there. I have written about it before here and here.

I have been called, picky, finicky, a pain in the ass and all those other endearing terms that I am sure that the brands use behind closed doors to describe runners who hop from brand-to-brand and do not show the proper loyalty to their great product lines.

Something, I think that the brands tend to forget, is that after I buy a pair of running shoes, especially if I like them.

Their running shoes become “my” running shoes and when that happens there is a huge difference in how I view “my” shoes versus other running shoes, I try.

I know that I get upset when a brand screws up “my” running shoes, especially when I go to buy another pair and they no longer work me, the same as they did in the past.

Yeah it pisses me off.

This is primarily why I am one of the many runners, who show no loyalty to a brand.

Why not?

Brands do not show loyalty to me or most other runners.

No, I am not talking about getting free crap – errr brand gear to wear, comped trips to races, becoming brand ambassadors or other stuff like that.

I am talking about when and how the brands seem to feel the “need” to constantly “update” their running shoes to the point where they are no longer useable by the runners who ran very successfully in that particular style, bear very little resemblance to the shoe they supposedly updated or what is becoming even more likely drop the line.

I know that the bottom-line is whether a running shoe makes the corporation/brand money or not – that is a given and we all understand that.

What I do not understand is the process brands use to decide how and when to do their so-called updates.

Are they really taking into account the people who actually like their product the way it is and are buying those running shoes because of the way they are working for them?

Or are they paying attention to a smaller, but much more vocal number of naysayers or so-called experts whose negative opinions, seem to outweigh the opinions of a satisfied, but silent majority of the people who might run successfully and are very happy running in those running shoes the way they are?

You know when brands have a good shoe that sells well or at least decently enough to make a profit for the brand and does what they are supposed to do for the runners that use them.

Maybe just maybe, some of the non-traditional or not so mainstream features that a running shoe has are the reason that runners are buying that shoe and when the updates make it more like every other shoe out there, the reason for buying that particular shoe style/brand goes away.

Brands seem to forget it is okay to be different and fill a particular niche for a smaller number of runners, who will potentially keep coming back to buy the same or similar products over and over.

Newer is not always necessarily better.

Who do they Listen to?

I guess I am asking who do the brands listen to?

Oh I know the brands have wear-testers, consumer focus groups and a plethora of other experts advising them of what is the next “GREAT” shoe should be and the features it should have, along with the newest whiz-bang technology or marketing drivel used to promote the greatness of the update to their or is it our running shoes.

Do they listen to the silent majority of runners who buy their shoes and might (believe it or not) just like their running shoes the way that they are.

How do brands reach out to this much quieter cohort, especially when they “know” that people are more likely to give negative feedback about a product and that when people are happy with what they are using they just quietly go ahead and keep using them.

Brands will do what brands do

Brands have and will “improve” (at least that is what we are told – that they are improvements) their products, when they want to. It is what we have become used to and honestly it is what I now expect from brands.

However, I do laugh when I read brands responses (when they deign to respond) to when runners who dare to whine or complain about “What did you do to my running shoes?” More often then not those complaints are tacitly ignored, poo-pooed or deleted when it is possible.

After reading Seth’s post yesterday, it made me wonder if it is because brands focus is working so much harder to entice new customers to use/try their newest running shoe or that “Great” update to a popular shoe, than it is to keep present customers who are already “mostly” happy with their product.

After all, we are already “happy” customers who love their products – right???

What do I want from my running shoes

Personally,  I just want to find a pair of running shoes, that allow me to run without getting in my way, run double-digit miles without my feet hurting or focusing on how the shoe feels and be able to put them into my daily running shoe rotation.

Then if I really like that running shoe and it becomes “my” shoes, to be able to depend on being able to buy that shoe or a very similar shoe from that brand in foreseeable future and have it work for me as well as it does today.

Unfortunately, that has never been my experience in the 40 plus years I have been running. Brands always seem to be in a race to see who has the shoe with the neatest or greatest next thing.

My experience is that when I find a brand/style of running shoes that works well for me, it is either quickly “updated” (usually within 6-18 months) to the point where it is not the same shoe that I originally loved and worked very well for me, or worse the brand drops it, for whatever reason.

Yeah I know – life’s a bitch and times are tough with my first world problems.

However, this is the reason that I am so damn finicky with my running shoes and show zero, none, no brand loyalty – the brands show none to me.

The reality is that

I know I am naïve and don’t understand the nature of the beast. I also am not a corporate weanie, who has to worry about counting beans or making a profit within the corporate political environments. I am sure it gets nasty behind those beautiful corporate headquarters office doors, about how running shoes decisions are made and how much profit a division is required to maintain.

After all I am just a runner, just one of the millions of nameless, faceless horde that running shoe brands attempt to sell shoes to.

But something I do know is how I buy running shoes and how much I hate not knowing whether the running shoes that I buy and like today, will fit or even work for me at least as well as the original, when it is updated or if it will be dropped from a brands line-up (for whatever reason).

I know that I am going out on limb and am committing heresy to the running shoe geek community, but wouldn’t it be nice if a brand made a commitment to their customers on shoes that have reached a certain sales levels – to leave the damn things alone for two-three years?

Wouldn’t it be different for a brand to actively promote or market that they are leaving their shoe alone, because it is working for the runners who are buying and using it.

Isn’t a shoe that actually works for runners something for a brand to brag about!!!

Shouldn’t Runner’s World, social media whizbangs and all the blogs make a big deal that a brand is keeping a shoe that works well for the majority of runners that use them. Instead making it sound like a negative when a brand doesn’t update much more than a colorway on a pair of shoes, because what they have is actually working. This kind of negativity happens all too often from the running media.

I believe that we and brands need to refocus and remember…Newer, brighter and shinier is not always better than what is working.

Then if sales continue to be steady, make small incremental changes to things about that style of shoe, but only change that runners are actually complaining about, instead of making wholesale changes for marketing purposes or improve something that really doesn’t need to be improved because a designer or engineer thinks it is cool – something that we have all experienced with running shoe updates.

This might add some stability to the running shoe buying process, for the typical runner out here, instead of forcing runners to have to search for a new shoe that might or might not work for us, every time we need to go shoe shopping.

Isn’t there something to be said for brands to have steady sales and consumers that are happy with their product and become return customers multiple times, instead of a large number of one or two and be done with that style or brand, before they hop to the next brand, while searching for that elusive, but perfect running shoe?

After all most runners are going to buy new running shoes at least every 3-6 months, so the return market is there.

Wouldn’t the brands prefer more what I call “loyalty” to their brands, after all isn’t it easier to keep their current customer base happy, than it is to continually go out and continually attempt to tempt new runners to use their products?

In my naïvety I guess I believe the following:

Good shoes and decent marketing sell shoes multiple times, while good marketing and bad shoes/updates sell once. There is a difference.

Brands please remember when I buy your running shoes, they become “my” shoes too.

You will notice that there are no images in this post – that is for a reason, I am not singling out any particular brand, because it seems that they all do it.

4 thoughts on “What Are Brands Doing to MY Running Shoes

  1. Great post! I was thinking about this very topic the other day… I think they like to do “updates” so they can “update” the price 😛

  2. I know what you mean! Every time I go to buy new running shoes technology seems to have moved on so far that the trainers I bought a few months ago are unrecognisable to the ones on the shelf! I think manufacturers should continue with old successful lines as well as pursuing the latest advances.

  3. Interesting idea. It would save them $$ on R&D and their marketing people could trumpet how they are catering to their loyal customers who love X brand shoes, model Y.
    Maybe a brand could do that with one model and see how it goes. Maybe introduce the new version but keep the old one in production. If the old version still sells, they know they have a loyal customer base that will support their continued manufacturing of said shoe.

  4. I think that our ‘smartphone culture’ and ‘disposable society’ contribute – we are used to rapid update cycles, and that when we shop next year we will see something ALL NEW!!!!!

    I look at the music electronics industry (I have a little studio I’ve fiddled with for the last 30 years) … in the 80s things changed at an amazing pace – year to year was a stunning difference. The 90s saw things slow down in many areas, and over the last 20 years things have been more and more incremental, full of refinements and retro instruments and so on. But there is no longer the same need for a new model every year.

    The running shoe industry is hard to differentiate products, so they need to be big and loud about the HUGE advancements they are making, because it pays for the infrastructure they have built up.

    Specifically I have talked about the new Nike Free – I have only tried on the Free 5.0, which isn’t one I’ve run in before, but the new design is an abomination. I need to try the 3mm drop shoes which have the most radical new design to see what they are like …

    The only ‘good’ change for me was the New Balance Minimus – the first ones destroyed my ankles, the 2.0 works really well for me! Whereas the Saucony Kinvara 4 works great for me but I have only heard negative feedback from what others say happened from the Kinvara 3 upgrade …

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