By Austin Bonds
At first glance, you might be inclined to think that the title of this article is in reference to another company that has decided to enter the running shoe market. Take a breath – it’s not. But the title of this article does speak to what might be a possible trend by runners right now: the acquisition of luxury running shoes. A suit and tie, as you may gather, epitomizes the look of donning your best for a night out – so why would runners be shy about investing in a pair of shoes that follow this approach? An exploration of luxury running shoes captured my attention after seeing a recent article about Mizuno and Lamborghini (yes – the automaker Lamborghini) being mentioned in the same paragraph.
After reading the article, I started digging and discovered that Mizuno has developed a new shoe in partnership with Lamborghini: the Wave Tenjin. If the Wave Prophecy appears to be a high price point at $210, the Tenjin bumps that figure $40 more for a whopping $250. What sets this model apart from other running shoes in light of the high dollar price? The Tenjin is characterized by a full-length Infinity Waveplate and a striking upper design available in four distinct color patterns that reflect the heritage of Italy.
The Tenjin is not the only model that comprises the luxury running shoe market right now, though. The Adidas Ultra Boost and Ultra Boost ST (both $180) are in this collection, as are the Asics MetaRun ($250) and the Altra IQ ($199), which will provide data on foot strike, cadence, pace, time, and distance when it’s released later this year. I’d be remiss not to mention that Under Armour is dropping a “Record Equipped” version of the SpeedForm Gemini 2 for $150, a model that also measures running data. Though GPS watches from the likes of Garmin and others can obviously track the aforementioned metrics too, it’s becoming clear that measuring data from a run can now be acquired through “smart” shoe sensors.
What are runners to make of these particular models and their respective price points? Running shoe prices have trended upwards over the past several years, but these models are undoubtedly in a class of their own. The major question is whether the price reflects the perceived value when they are tried on during a fit process. To put another way, does the hype, real or otherwise, deliver? Is the comfort amazing and unparalleled?
I’m asking myself if shoes like these are following the direction of running apparel right now – a concept known as athleisure. Athleisure is a term that highlights the tendency of people to wear athletic clothing in a casual manner, i.e. completing errands around town. I wouldn’t hesitate to run in any of these shoes, but I wonder if people are more inclined to protect these shoes from the elements and wear them on a more sporadic basis in light of the hefty price point – or is it sticker shock?
I’ve never thought about running shoes as luxury shoes until now, as shoes that can garner even a fraction of the type of interest that’s paid towards a brand like that of (Michael) Jordan. In fact, many Jordan shoes are at a much higher price point than the ones I’ve referenced in this article – and they are generally worn from a leisure standpoint. Shoes help mark our sense of style and self, and it seems that running shoes are entering this conversation more.
Luxury running shoes like the Tenjin, Ultra Boost, and the MetaRun are indeed the outliers from a pricing standpoint as many running shoes can still be had today for $100-120. So are these models a fashion statement or a running shoe? They are both, and for those who look for substantial cushioning courtesy of an Infinity Waveplate or a Boost midsole or FlyteFoam, Mizuno, Adidas, and Asics have shoes available to meet this request for the best.
I’ll close with a note concerning color. The Wave Tenjin is available in black as a primary color; an Ultra Boost has a black and grey upper option; the MetaRun is splashed with black and gold. Though the Altra IQ isn’t out just yet, I wonder if their designers will give this shoe a look that’s fitting for an elegant night out on the town – a suit and tie kind of look for that night out and about. For running of course – because what else would you do with these shoes?