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Brooks | Running | Revolutionising runningLars Lürmann Brooks EMEA international sales manager of distribution and Clive Chowles from the South African distributor SBR Agencies.
July 2014

Brooks is

revolutionising running

The current Brooks research project will change the way people think about running and footwear

Stride signature will revolutionise running in the future, is how Lars Lürmann, Brooks EMEA international sales manager of distribution, describes the long term research project the brand is engaged in. They are working with two eminent biomechanical researchers to try and answer the question: how can we define and decode comfort in running? The goal, for Brooks, is to return focus on the runner and build shoes that support the individual’s needs and preferences.

They consider this research so important for the footwear industry, that they are sharing it with other brands. It will change the way the footwear industry thinks about running, he predicts. “And it has already changed the way we build shoes at Brooks.”

The research team is led by two of the world’s leading biomechanical researchers: Dr Gert-Peter Brüggemann, professor of biomechanics at the German Sport University, Cologne, and Dr. Joseph Hamill, professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts. Assisted by a team from Brooks, they have been studying large groups of runners since 2010 to gain insight into running motion, and to better understand the footwear needs of different types of runners.

After studying runners during Olympic try-outs and other elite events, they found that each of these runners have different strides — even though they expected runners with similar body types, all running within seconds, or at most a minute, from each other, to run more or less the same. They also found that some of the champions were badly over-pronating, yet injury-free, but some neutral runners were suffering from injuries.

“For the past 15-20 years we’ve been looking at the foot and the ankle of runners,” says Lürmann, and stability shoes against over-pronation were the magic bullet against almost all injuries. “During trials in the lab, however, we found out from the biomechanics that we need to focus more on the knee. Running injuries are mostly happening at the knee. And many of these injuries could be explained by studying abduction and adduction as well as internal rotation within the knee during the run.”

By studying the individual shapes of the knee joints and different experiences of tension, or discomfort, on the ligaments, Brooks researchers learned about the crucial importance of the runner’s unique motion path — or “stride signature”. Like a fingerprint, it reflects the individuality of each runner.

But critical challenges remain. “The key will be to translate stride signature into good products. To find a formula allowing us to build running shoes that support individual strides while providing comfort and protection from injuries for the runner.” Lürmann says. “As a concept, then, stride signature is bigger than a shoe or an athletic brand. We believe this will revolutionise running for the future.”

Brooks therefore took the decision to share their research findings during TRE in Austin, Texas (biggest platform for Running specialists and Running brands on the US market) and at ISPO Munich with key retailers, other brands and the media — and ask them for feedback. During workshops with key retailers they discussed the practical implications of the research at store level: ´how do you identify runners needs, what process you walk through with runners to analyse the individual gait? How do you talk to somebody who just wants to buy a running shoe about his knee and lower leg rotation, pronation, supination … how much time do you have and which devises do you use?” they asked retailers.

Although the topic is very complex, retailers appreciated that the brand shared the new insights with them and asked for their input, says Lürmann. This will be an ongoing process — and Runner’s World announced that they will organise an annual meeting at ISPO on the future of running, with Brooks as their first keynote speaker.

At the symposium Brooks steered clear of linking the research to a specific footwear product, though ultimately the goal is, of course, to do just that: build shoes that help runners maintain their signature stride.

And they have already developed one product — Transcend — that is going in that direction. “Transcend keeps you in your preferred path of motion as long as possible. When you go out of your preferred path of motion, the shoe helps you with new Brooks technology to stay in your individual corridor,” says Lürmann. “It’s a new way of building product. It’s a new idea, very unique.”

The biggest difference is that the new way of thinking about running shoes is not to fix a problem, but to embrace how the body works and knee rotates, and help the runner stay in his preferred path of motion, he explains.

Even before samples were ready, many retailers pre-ordered the Transcend, purely based on trust, Lürmann says proudly.

But, shoes like the Transcend will not be the answer for all runners — some will still feel more comfortable with other models, he says. It will, however, change the way people talk about footwear and retailers categorise their walls. “The industry has already started to use different words like ‘more freedom’ and ‘more assurance for the foot’ instead of more technical terms that overwhelm the runner.”

As part of the Brooks centennial celebrations in 2014, there will be a much stronger focus on the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa), which has been identified as one of the brand’s future growth areas.

Brooks COO David Bohan has relocated to Europe to support this initiative as EMEA president. The region’s headquarters are also relocating to Amsterdam, which is closer to all markets and the landing ports.

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