Canadian Running took a trip down to Austin, Texas for The Running Event, the big annual industry trade show. There, we got to chat with product designers from pretty much every major brand, and they walked us through what’s to come for runners in 2016.
The trade show floor was set up pretty much like a massive running expo, where indie brands and upstart products were able to show their wares. We took a lot of pictures – far too many to share on Instagram – so we decided to put together a breakdown of notable products to come in 2016, as well as some other fun sights from TRE.
The first meeting of the day was with three of the lovely folks from Arc’teryx. They had only one thing to show us, but it was a doozy. The designer of this jacket, the Norvan SL Hoody, walked us through this extraordinarily light running-focused Gore-Tex jacket. We’ll have a completely review shortly after we get a tester and a “first impressions/sneak peak” story up soon with more photos and details. For now, the takeaway is that it’s the lightest Gore-Tex jacket ever made. Finally, fully functional Gore-Tex for runners.
There’s been an booth arms race of awesomeness going on at TRE over the least few years. Pearl Izumi decided to subject a crew of pedicurists to perhaps the toughest job of their careers: working on runners’ feet all day.
Zoot’s fall 2016 apparel gets the DWR treatment, and looks great.
Zoot’s new branding angle has been to leverage its relationship with its roots in California. The 2016 Solana 2 is a nod to the classic Vans skateboarding shoe checkerboard pattern.
Brands bring in their sponsored athletes for the week. Scott Jurek (above) was there, as was Meb Keflezighi, Nick Symmonds and Rob Krar.
As was some dude dressed up like Forrest Gump at the Skratch Labs booth.
Speaking of Nick Symmonds, along with Alysia Montano and Kara Goucher, the outspoken American 800m runner got his own signature watch, released by Soleus. A portion of each sale goes directly to help fund the athlete, and each of the three had a say in the design.
We also got to see Hoka One One’s custom spikes for its growing stable of elite track runners. The company that invented the maximalist movement will be releasing a slender, lightweight racer-trainer in 2016.
The poor people at Boa spent the week toiling away in their workshop, doing away with shoelaces.
The lovely folks at Picky Bars gave us a plethora of samples to smuggle back to Canada (they are not yet available here).
One of the fun stories at this year’s show was fun socks. Swiftwick, Stance, Point 6 (who guarantee their socks for life!) and others have been doing really neat designs for a while, and now these looks are coming to runner’s ankles. Swiftwick made this American state flag series and are now getting requests from people in all 50 states for their state flag to be given the sock treatment.
Beef jerky for runners first popped up at TRE a couple of years ago. Now there are a few different producers of performance enhancing meats. Sweetwood, based out of Colorado Springs, also makes a tasty pork stick. Sadly, many of these companies don’t bother with the Canadian market and the import iron curtain that is Health Canada.
Chinese sports brand 361 had a big booth this year, with the unusual imagery from its current North American marketing campaign hanging overhead.
Perhaps one of the neatest stories we heard at TRE was of how the slipper brand Zhenzee came into being. The founder, who was previously involved with Hoka One One (and now makes training shoes and military boots for Navy SEALs), was at a factory in China when he noticed that many of the workers wore these knit slippers with a very basic sneaker sole attached. He discovered that the factory workers would knit the uppers with all sorts of funny patterns in their spare time, and then glue on a soft sole at work for daily wear. He’s now brought the concept to the Western market.
Speaking of clever entrepreneurs and odd inventions, the creator of the Runbell was in Austin. Kevin Nadolny has an engineering background and, after moving to Tokyo, came up with the Runbell idea. We’ve tested the product and teased it a bit in the past, so it was interesting to learn that Nadolny conceived of the idea while trying to run the crowded streets of Tokyo. Each Runbell is also handmade in Tokyo (down the street from where Nadolny lives) by a respected family business that makes bike bells.
Finnish company Karhu had both its current performance shoes and throwback leisure designs at their booth. They also had a series of heritage track spikes, including their three-stripe design that they apparently sold to Adidas in the 1940s for about the equivalent of $2,000 and a couple bottles of whiskey. Oops.
San Fransisco company Rule #5 was born just three months ago. They made this nifty workout bag (with embroidered PBs) as well as a triathlon inspired print on a toiletry bag and some minimal leather wallets.
Asics will be rolling out shorts in 2016 with the fuel belt baked in. Tie up that draw string!
Saucony aren’t messing around when it comes to winter 2016. They’ve partnered with Vibram and came up with a new outsole technology that’s apparently so sticky that you could use a hockey rink as a running track.
Adidas has some pretty apparel coming in 2016, including new colourways for its knit line and sweater necks from the future!
Skatch Labs had one of the most popular booth because… they baked cookies.
Polar was showing off their new activity tracker, the A300, which has lots of colour options for the strap.
Nike’s booth was slick and cleanly laid out.
Garmin were providing a first in-person look at their updated line of GPS watches. They seemed lighter and thinner than their predecessors.
I had a long conversation with the founders of Run The Edge, a virtual running community that challenged participants to run 2015 miles in 2015. They even have a finisher’s medal and T-shirt for their members.
The Brooks booth went with an electoral theme.
Swiss shoemaker On had a photographer at the event’s 5K race and then posted the photos on the side of their booth.
And Asics went with a road house bar theme, minus Patrick Swayze as the bouncer.
Lots of shoes handed out at the event. And lots of shoe boxes in hotel hallway recycling bins.
Spartan Race had a mini-obstacle course set up, and there was also a track for testing gear.