Hot Stepping: The Next Running Shoe Brands Chasing the Competition

Looking for a new look for your next race? Here are four brands pushing harder in the running market that you should know about.

Whether you attribute the pandemic to sending more people outside to run (on the road or on the trails), or consumers simply demanding a different approach to running shoes, we have seen a dramatic shift in the way runners consume their shoes.

While major shoe brands continue to produce popular products (think Asics, Saucony, and New Balance), once fringe brands like HOKA ONE ONE and On Running are now hot on the heels of mainstream brands among serious and casual runners alike. .

But, as these brands have become more popular, they have left a void for more up-and-coming companies to gain a foothold. We looked at data provided by Matt Powell, senior industry adviser for The NPD Group, and spoke to Connor Johnson, owner of specialty running store Fairhaven Runners in Bellingham, Washington, for insight into the brands of high-load shoes that runners should know about.

Best Upcoming Running Shoe Brands


(Photo/Tim Newcomb)

Puma used to run with runners, but the brand just faded into the lifestyle backdrop. But beware: Puma is back in performance — first in basketball and golf and, more recently, in running.

In the spring of 2021, Puma released five new models — the deviate, Deflect the elite, Speed, To freeand Eternity – all focused on running performance.

Puma has introduced Nitro Foam cushioning technology that infuses nitrogen to create lighter, more responsive foam. It also innovated a new rubber technology for the outsole.

the Deflect the elite included a carbon fiber plate, and the deviate has a carbon composite plate. With five styles at introduction, Puma wanted to show off a style for every rider, including catering for women with women-specific designs born in the development stage. Puma says the Deviate and Speed proved to be the most popular in the first year.

This year, the brand is not slowing down. the Velocity Nitro 2 launched in February with an improved fit, according to the brand. And it marks the first of a new slate of 2022 products. A new Fast-R Nitro Elite launches this spring – expect to see a women’s exclusive Run XX Nitro later this spring.

(Fast-R Nitro Elite and Run XX Nitro are currently launching in Europe. We’ll update when they become available in the US)


Nobull runner +
NOBULL runner +

This direct-to-consumer brand might not show up at your favorite specialty store, but that hasn’t stopped this gym native from aggressively getting into the race and expanding its reach. functional fitness.

Launched in 2015, the simplistic NOBULL quickly took over CrossFit. Then in 2018, the brand added casual running. And from February this year, NOBULL entered into performance with the Runner+.

The pragmatic philosophy of the brand means a streamlined construction. the Runner+ uses a Pebax midsole and places a nylon plate inside. A seamless technical mesh matches the style.

NOBULL told us that performance running marks a natural progression for a brand that already has more than 300 NFL athletes training in its product — even though it technically only sponsors two of those athletes.

His shoes are also seen on Olympians, hockey players and tennis pros, as well as his legion of CrossFit devotees. While NOBULL has seen incredible growth in the functional fitness space, a new lab in Vermont is in the works for the Boston-based brand. So expect a focus on running that will lead to running-focused technology in the years to come.

speed land

Speedland - SL HSV
Speedland – SL HSV

Legit trail runners have legit gear for your feet with the launch of Speedland. Launched in the summer of 2021, Speedland brought high-end trail running shoes to market (and by high-end, we mean $375 for a pair).

The shoe veterans who founded the brand wanted the best in premium materials at all times. That means a Michelin outsole, Pebax midsole, Dyneema upper, BOA Fit lacing and Carbitex carbon plate.

The Portland-based brand has focused on trail running and wants to use technology and the best materials available to create a dream shoe construction. the SL:PDX, available while supplies last, launched the brand. And the next model, the SL:HSVa collaboration with Liz Canty drawing from her home in Huntsville, Alabama is the next release to hit the market.

The SL:HSV refines the SL:PDX and features a new BOA system, a new Michelin outsole rubber compound designed for wet rocks, a more durable Carbitex carbon plate and is gaiter compatible.

Speedland may not be a high-volume producer, but the distinct focus on “equipment” and dedication to trail riding gives it a unique perspective on the running market. The new collaborations promised by the company, all in limited quantities, provide additional intrigue.

Athletic Propulsion Laboratories

Athletic Propulsion Laboratories - streamline
Athletic Propulsion Laboratories – streamline; (photo/Tim Newcomb)

Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL) launched in 2010 with a high-tech basketball shoe. But it has since positioned itself as a luxury athletic brand focused on both style and technology.

APL went beyond basketball in training shoes and entered the race in 2014 with the TechLoomPro. The 2021 release of Streamline helped propel APL into one of the fastest growing racing brands, according to data from Powell.

The Streamline has been engineered with a new midsole and outsole built on FutureFoam, designed for “exceptional compression, rebound and energy return”, while providing the comfort of a recovery shoe with the generation of energy of a long-distance runner.

The surface of the midsole features horizontal channels to help each stride flow smoothly through air. the Streamline the upper offers the new AeroLux woven textile. Every element of the shoe, from the insole to the two-piece rubber outsole, was new to the brand.

While APL has expanded its racing lines with a mix of exclusive technologies and styles, the $300 Streamline continues the “luxury” style with updated technologies. Expect a new performance racing model from APL this spring as the brand remains focused on luxury performance.

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