Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kona 2014 Running Shoe Count

On October 11,2014 there was a race, the Ironman World Championships on the Kona Coast of Hawaii. On this day a few friends from Newton and I counted 95% of the shoes worn by the athletes. Below is my view of running shoes and athletes beyond the count itself.

The Ranking

  1. Asics - 17.7%
  2. Saucony - 14.5%
  3. Newton - 10.7%
  4. Brooks - 10.3%
  5. adidas - 6.9%
  6. Hoka - 6.0%
  7. Mizuno - 5.9%
  8. Zoot - 5.9%
  9. Nike - 5.0%
  10. On - 4.6%
  11. New Balance - 3.7%
  12. Others - 2.4%
  13. Kswiss - 2.3%
  14. Pearl Izumi - 1.7%
  15. Sketchers - 1.7%

Quick View
  1. The big global brands pull their weight. Asics, Saucony, Brooks, adidas, Mizuno, Nike and New Balance - Their rank is somewhat attributed to how much they spend on the sport of triathlon as well as how they rank at running stores around the world. They are trusted brands, they have perfect fit for the most part and they have been around the longest. When I say global they are available in virtually every country in every retailer store where runners shop. 
  2. Brands who use Triathlon as their entry into running shoes are also well supported, Newton, Hoka (thanks to a partnership with slowtwitch.com) and Zoot specifically. 
  3. There is someone at Nike who looks at this count and gets mad that they are not further up the count. But that doesn't last very long after the results of the Lunar Glide or Free sales numbers come in. Nike is the largest running shoe brand in the world and they are billions of dollars larger than the next brand. 
  4. The "big" brand missing from this list is Altra. For the amount of money they spend on TV they should show up bigger at this race but they don't. Less than 10 people ran in Altra. 
Individual Shoes that Stood Out

  1.  Saucony Kinvara - It's by far the #1 shoe in Kona and that is now two years in a row. It's light, it fits most feet and it is the smoothest ride in running. Saucony does a good job on colors and for this race they release a Kona special edition model which goes over well. 
  2. Brooks Racer ST - This is a theory of mine on why. Before the Kinvara the #1 shoe was the Asics DS Trainer followed closely by the Asics Gel Noosa. But neither of the Asics are as good as they once were. I believe the athlete who would have gone with the Asics has found the Brooks Racer ST. 
  3. Newton Distance Elite - Newton has got to be happy with the results of the count and this shoe in particular. This shoe combined with a Ironman edition of the shoe are far and away their most popular shoes on course. I believe it was this athlete they were thinking of when they built the shoe. 
  4. adidas Energy Boost - In previous years the majority of adidas product was their very popular racing flats. Those are still there but the Energy Boost has become their go to shoe for runners of all kinds including those racing in Kona. It's soft and flat to the ground. 
  5. Hoka Clifton and Huaka - Both of these shoes came out in July and have been adopted quickly but runners and Triathletes. They are both much lighter than previous Hoka shoes and they both act closer to a regular running shoe still providing the maximal cushioning that Hoka is known for. 
The Trends in Running that Show up in Kona
  1. Constant Ground Contact - The biggest trend in running and you see it in the Saucony Kinvara, adidas Energy Boost and both Hoka shoes is that the shoes are flat to the ground one piece midsoles. If you look at the Asics Gel Nimbus there are 4 distinct layers in the midsole. The top layer close to your foot, The Midfoot shank (Trustic System) that is under the arch of the shoe and is used to support the foot through transition. The bottom layer of foam closest to the ground. Put the top layer, trustic system and bottom layer together and you have the midsole that cushions and supports your foot. The final layer is the thick outersole for durability. This is what running shoes have been for almost 30 years. The new trend is simplification. Using new foam technology, shoes like the Kinvara, Energy Boost and Hoka are using one piece of foam, with very little rubber. You get the midfoot support from the ground and you get an increadibly light and smooth feel. This trend has been building steam and it's about to explode. You'll see more and more shoes built this way. 
  2. Maximalizm - Hoka for sure is driving this. Running hurts and taking the shock and pain away is a good thing for a large number of runners. Hoka does that. But they are not alone. Of the 10 pairs of Altra, 8 of them were Maximal. Almost all of the Sketchers were Maximal. In 2015 Asics will introduce the 33 M which will bring Maximal ride with a classic Asics Fit. We should see Maximal as a category grow in Kona next year. Will Hoka be the driver, yes but they will not be the only game in town. 
  3. Racing Flats are not dead - Kona is the World Championships and probably has more racing flats as a percentage the any Marathon in the world. Low to the ground go fast racing flats from every brand show up on this race course. My favorite was a guy in close to 1700th place (there were just over 1900 finishers) who had a Nike Mayfly on his foot.  This man was going to run a 5-6 hour marathon and do it in a 5 oz shoe. I love that! 
The Ironman run course Kona is like no other run on the planet. There are hotter marathons and their are hillier marathons. But there is not one hotter or hillier after 112 miles on the bike in the same heat and with bigger hills. Athletes get off the bike trashed at noon or later and then put on their running shoes for the marathon. Shoe choice is about comfort more than anything. The next time you are shoe shopping try one of the shoes highlighted above.  If they are good for Kona they are good for everyone. 

It's a good life....

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