On the Shoe Market

In the world of running, it sometimes seems like the apparel and shoe market are dominated by certain brands: Brooks, Saucony, Nike, Asics, and New Balance (mentioned here in no particular order) possibly being at the top of the list.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that new brands and trends don’t pop up, and that there aren’t smaller brands that are still popular and successful (Vibram FiveFingers, for instance, or Mizuno, my brand of choice).

I’ve recently been surprised to see K-Swiss making a play for a share of the running shoe market.  Back when I was in middle school, I saw people wearing K-Swiss shoes all the time.  I guess they were the trend at that time.  But I never really associated them with any specific sports, or serious athleticism.  And to be honest, when they popped back up on my radar, I realized I hadn’t thought about them in years.

Runner’s World recognized K-Swiss’s Kwicky Blade-light (pictured at left and available in a wide variety of bright, bright colors) for ‘Best Debut’ in June, 2011, so it would seem that these are viable running shoes.  The brand has styles available for neutral runners, those who over-pronate, and those who are looking for a more minimal running experience.  They’ve made a commitment to trying to get their name onto the list of running shoe brands, and that they intend to be taken seriously.

Or at least, it kind of seemed that way.  And then I came upon these:

for which I’d seen an ad featuring Jillian Michaels earlier this week–the Tubes 100 Backatcha.

It’s not that I think that someone’s level of dedication to running should be measured based on the shoes they’re wearing.  Nor do I think that anyone should be judged based on how ridiculous their shoes look (and I’m aware that other brands have designs similar to this.  For the record, I think they’re pretty silly looking, too).  And it’s not even that I think that because these shoes are sort of silly, K-Swiss shouldn’t be taken seriously as a contender for a piece of the running shoe pie.  It’s just…these shoes, in spite of being classified as running shoes, seem like they’d be more appropriate for middle school gym class.  And when a brand is trying to position itself as an alternative to Brooks, or Saucony, or Nike, they should probably focus a little bit more on their Runner’s-World-recognized shoes, and a bit less on things that look kind of like something you might wear if you wanted to go for a walk on the surface of the moon.

I get pretty excited about running shoes, but I just can’t see myself ever wanting to try on a pair of the Tubes Backatcha.  I’m not sure I would give the Kwicky Blade-lights a try, either.  But that’s me, and of course I’m not necessarily representative of the general running population.

So what’s your opinion on K-Swiss as a running shoe brand?  Are they barking up the wrong tree (running down the wrong road)?  Should they put less emphasis on their campaign for a place in the pantheon of running shoe brands?  Or do they have a chance to achieve greatness, a chance that I’m incapable of seeing because of my snobby attitude toward shoes that will inevitably be caked in dirt and grime after one week?

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  1. K-Swiss was pretty popular when I was in college, about 7-8 years ago (I feel old now). But they were just casual shoes, for around campus. Not for running. Those shoes look more flashy to me but I guess if they work for people, they work for ya!

    And, I dunno if this is regional, but I’m from the south. Vibrams are pretty popular here, and so are Mizuno’s. I’ve also seen people with Under Armor shoes. But I’ve honestly never seen many runners wear Saucony or New Balance (at least not New Balance running shoes, but casual shoes yeah). Of course Nike, Adidas, Reebok are here to stay :).

    1. I’ve never been a big fan, either, so maybe I’m just biased against their design? I don’t think I would buy them. I know the appearance of a running shoe shouldn’t be such an important factor, but I still want shoes I like wearing, especially at that price!

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