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We made our first pair of running shoes in 1938, and have been innovating ever since. Our technology, processes and materials have advanced by quantum leaps since then.
But we’re always on the lookout for more. For better. For what’s next. The innovations of our past continue to inspire us today.
So we look back at the last 75 years in search of answers to the question, “What will the world of running look like in the next 75?”
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What will the world of running look like in the next decade and beyond? No one can predict the future. But that doesn’t stop our imaginations from running wild.
“I think you’re going to see a lot more new materials. For the last 50 years, the materials used in footwear have been fairly conventional. But I think in the next few years, you’re going to see a lot of alternatives that I would say, are very much outside of traditional footwear materials.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
“There’s going to be more customization too, no doubt. That far into the future, everybody’s going to have their own pair of shoes. It’s all going to be precisely calibrated and customized to the way they run, to meet their needs.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
“Shoes are going to be a lot smarter than they are now. You might even be able to make your own shoes at home at that point. We might sell you software where you download something and you print a shoe at home. That’s one vision, for sure.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
TodayWhere We Are Now.
From 3D printing to night vision fabrics, here’s a quick glimpse of where the innovations of our past have taken us today.
There's More Speed In All Of Us. VAZEE The next great lightweight running shoe.
Defy The Dark NB Glow Beacon JacketThree layers of revolutionary fabric technology help runners stand out and stay safe in any light, from dawn to dusk.
3D Printing“We’ve already begun 3D printing individual customizations for our elite athletes. The quest has always been to try to bring that to a lot more people.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
Data To Design"The reality is, we use data pretty much everywhere now. It’s just a really good design tool. It grounds the design in something and gives us reasons for placing things where they are.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
2014 / Fresh FoamThe Science of Soft.
Using runner testing and analysis, Fresh Foam was the first collection to have biomechanical data inform its shoe design.
“It was the first time we had data and algorithm-based software help us design shoes. We had all this data from athletes: mostly impact, force and pressure testing. And we wanted to see how we could design midsoles with little to no input from designers. Straight data to design.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
“What’s really unique about Fresh Foam and what gets me excited is, it’s just a smarter way to design soles and learn about where you need support and cushioning.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
“It’s using data to influence the performance of the shoe. So it’s not like, ‘Oh, let’s just design something that’s trendy and looks funky.’ This is actually raw data. It looks like this because this is what the data is telling us. It’s performance driven.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
2012 / RC5000Lighter. Faster. Better.
With a weight just over 3 oz., this ultralight racing flat broke barriers in the track world and remains a favorite of elite runners today.
“A few years ago, I went to a bike show in Vegas and saw a bike that was something like five or six pounds. The builder just decided to challenge himself and strip everything down to what’s essential. And that just made me think, ‘what can we do to footwear that would be a similar exercise?’”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
“At the time, the lightest shoe was like 3.8 oz. or so. But I gave myself a goal of 3 oz., just something I knew was sort of realistic but also pretty extreme. So I looked at everything from the rubber, to the amount of foam we put in there even to the laces – every gram counted.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
“The main reason car brands love prototyping racecars is to test new technologies: you learn something that influences something else down the line. This was our prototype car. And thanks to this shoe, we ended up with a new material called FantomFit that’s in a lot of shoes now. There’s a lot we can learn just by pushing what we know.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
2011 / MINIMUSRadically Different.
At the forefront of the minimalist movement, Minimus was designed to deliver the benefits of barefoot running with more protection.
“Minimus was innovative because it came from insights we arrived at by working with our athletes. We noticed [ultra-runner] Tony Krupicka was modifying his shoes by slicing off the heel, just to get lower to the ground. And that was a first.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
“We jumped on Tony’s modification and made a shoe that was simpler, streamlined, and lighter weight. Together we were able to push a minimal trail shoe that worked more with the foot instead of trying to control it. We rely on our athletes for insights and inspiration. This was a perfect example.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
1998 / 801The Trail Blazer.
This rugged all-terrain shoe captured the imaginations of younger athletes across the country, propelling New Balance to #1 in Trail Running.
“Trail shoes today have a lot of the same elements. The advanced materials we work with now let us keep the same type of ride, support and durability, but at a much lighter weight. But overall, the philosophy behind our trail shoes now is actually not that different than it was then.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
1982 / 990An Instant Classic
The iconic 990 became as famous for its features as its $100 price tag – the first ever to break the triple digit price barrier.
“This shoe is just iconic. From a technical standpoint, they tossed everything in: motion control stability, a flexible fit and a triple-density foam for added support, which was very unusual back then. It was super innovative all around, which was why people loved it.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
1980 / 620Lighter Than Air.
The streamlined 620 was purposefully designed to be the lightest running shoe on the market at the time.
“When our team was trying to design the lightest shoe in the world in the RC5000, we looked a lot to the original 620. At the time, 7.9 oz. was a big deal. Even just the style of the shoe – the visual sleekness – is inspiring in itself.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
1976 / 320The Trendsetter
Breakthroughs in cushioning catapulted the 320 to the top of Runner’s World’s lists – and NB to the forefront of modern shoe design.
“All our shoes from the ’70s and ’80s had the same layout: mid-foot saddle, forefoot tip, and foxing in the heel. That’s been the recipe for many of our successful shoes.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
1960 / TracksterThe Breakthrough
The world’s first performance running shoe made in multiple widths finally gave runners the option of finding a better-fitting shoe.
“It was a quest for a better fitting shoe and nobody was offering multiple widths at that time. Pretty innovative for 1960.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
“It was all rubber, no spikes. I’m sure this outsole pattern was designed for shock absorption and also just traction overall. This is the first iconic saddle New Balance shoe.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
1938 / Our First Running ShoeThe Archetype
A lightweight kangaroo leather, crepe-soled shoe custom-designed
for the local Brown Bag Harriers running club in Belmont, MA.
“Kangaroo leather is a natural lightweight material. So, already there was some thinking about innovation and lightweight, which is really cool.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation
“It was totally all about function-pattern engineering back then. You can see that here in this kind of saddle, which is something New Balance is well known for now. That’s in pretty much every New Balance running shoe you see today.”JF FullumDirector of Design Innovation