By: John Lofranco
It’s an idea, like many great ideas, that is simple. This is one that every runner has considered: custom-made running shoes. But coming up with ideas is one thing; executing them is another. Mathieu Raymond, a 28-year-old runner from Laval, Que., had this idea, too. And he followed through with it.
Raymond is a lifer. He started running at 10 years old, and was a mainstay on the Quebec and national scene as an 800m runner, reaching the podium at the national Legion Youth Championships in 2004. He is known as one of the most consistent pacers on the track and has also organized road running, cross-country and obstacle course events in his hometown and in Quebec City, where he completed his B.A. in administration and entrepreneurship at Laval University.
His company, Math Sport, takes a 3D scan of runners’ feet to create a customized insole. Then you can choose your own style and colour of laces, upper and midsole. You also get to choose the drop of the shoe and the thickness of the midsole. It’s pretty much the runner’s dream. I was one of the first people to buy the shoe, with the goal of supporting a local business, and when the first pair was delivered, I was impressed: it’s now my regular training shoe.
Math Sport’s initial crowd-funding campaign sold 500 pairs of shoes at a reasonable $100 each.
How did he go from a great, but simple idea to the complexity of running shoe production? First, he hustled. To make his dream come true, he needed to find a scanner provider, an industrial designer, an overseas production facility and financial investors. This isn’t a small-time operation: he wants to compete with the big names.
He travelled overseas to the ISPO show in Munich, the world’s biggest sports industry expo, in 2013. “I went to the Vibram kiosk,” Raymond recalled. “I talked to the only guy available at the time, who happened to be the VP of business development for Vibram Worldwide, and after he heard my story and business plan, he referred my project to the Vibram team in the U.S.”
Second, he was patient. There were delays to his original timeline, but he kept the long-term vision in mind, and didn’t expect things to happen overnight. The concept is challenging to customers’ buying habits: we like to go into a store and pick our shoe and walk out. Math Sport gives us the opportunity to make our shoe to measure, but it will take a little more time. Right now, from the moment you create your shoes to the moment they arrive at your door takes about 10 days. He also travelled internationally to understand the market, and entered (and won) several entrepreneurship contests that helped with funding and notoriety.
As a result of his patience and hustle, he signed his partners. PedFormance provides the scanner technology to measure runners’ feet, Vibram makes the soles in Asia, (where the uppers are made as well) and FM Chaussures in Montreal does the assembly. Math Sport’s initial crowd-funding campaign sold 500 pairs of shoes at a reasonable $100 each. The response was incredible to Raymond because “no one who bought in had seen the shoes or even a prototype because it didn’t exist at the time. They just believed in the concept.”
John Lofranco coaches at McGill Olympic Club in Montreal and is the director of road racing for Athletics Canada. This feature appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Canadian Running.