Shoe Innovation through Collaboration: Skechers Performance Division
Honestly when I was first approached by Justin about doing some wear testing for Skechers™ I was a bit skeptical. After all, these days when the word “Skechers” is brought up in conversation it’s usually referring to, at best, their casual line of footwear (I myself have owned several pairs of casual and dress shoes made by Skechers). At worst, the conversation turns to the Skechers Shape Ups™ and what a controversial and frankly silly shoe this. Actually, Justin put the Shape Ups on a top 10 gimmicky shoes list awhile back (here).
However, I’d also watched Meb Keflezighi crush the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in a pair of Skechers GO Run™ shoes—not only winning the event but running a personal best time. I’d also read several favorable reviews of the Skechers GO Run. So perhaps the Skechers Performance Division was serious about making a shoe that runners would want to run in. I’ve got an open mind so I figured “why not?”
So began my interface with the Skechers Performance Division. I quickly learned that this team was very serious and very genuine about trying to build quality performance running and walking footwear. I actually wanted to share a bit about how the Performance Division came to be as well as what their vision is for Skechers. What better way to do that than to share a word from two of the leaders in the group? Meet Rick Higgins, David Raysse, and Kurt Stockbridge. These three are the V.P. of Marketing, V.P. of Design, and V.P. of Technical Development, respectively, for the Skechers Performance Division. Here's what they had to say about their brief history and their approach to making running and walking shoes.
Our team made a decision to enter the performance footwear arena three years ago. We knew that in order to be successful we’d need to take a completely different approach and build a division separate from the fashion and lifestyle arms of the company. So we assembled a small team made up of veteran individuals from many of the leading athletic footwear companies to build a line of products that will meet the needs and high expectations of the most demanding running and walking consumers. Though most of us are runners, we embrace the fact that the needs of accomplished runners are much greater than our own and thus we made the decision, as part of our process, to depend on their direct feedback and advice to help guide us towards building the best performing products possible. Our team firmly believes in this approach and that the key to our success will be the unique combination of our experience base and our ability to listen directly to runners and walkers regarding their needs. In short, our marching orders are to answer to runners rather than layers of management. And we believe that this open innovation approach coupled with complete autonomy and the support from Skechers executive team will enable success.
Once the team was in place, we dug in immediately and got to know Meb (Keflezighi) and local Manhattan Beach Ultra marathoner Christian Burke, who was introduced through this site several months ago*. We extracted as much information and subjective feedback from them as we could over a year… and the GO run was the first shoe born from this approach. The word spread and we since have formed strong relationships with many more very demanding and experienced runners, walkers, and subject matter experts. Just like us, they are very excited to be involved in building something new and pure… especially when the end result reflects their input and values. And it helps that we are both motivated by a similar objective (though from different angles) - having a wider variety of worthy footwear choices available to runners and walkers…. A true win-win scenario for everyone involved.
—Rick Higgins and Kurt Stockbridge (Skechers Performance Division)
As for my own involvement with Skechers, a couple of months ago I started receiving a number of current, soon to be released and future prototype running shoes to test, evaluate and provide feedback on (note: I receive no payment from Skechers other than from the prototype shoes I have been testing, which are provided free of charge). Basically I received a bunch of prototypes in the mail then proceeded to run in them as part of my normal shoe rotation and on my typical routes and training runs. After I’d gotten a good feel for the shoes I’d write up some comments and suggestions and pass these on to the design team. Typically they’d ask some follow-up questions and we’d carry on a good back and forth dialog.
Unfortunately, I was extremely new to the Skechers wear testing crew and arrived too late in the prototype stage to help influence any of the immanent product releases other than confirming that they are on the right track. However my input, along with that of a few other runners, is being incorporated early on in the process regarding their 2013 models currently underway.
Anyhow, I’ve been running for over 20 years and have gone through a lot of shoes; some good, some average and some downright awful! I honestly believe I know enough about running shoes, particularly off-road running shoes, to hopefully contribute some useful feedback. We'll see how it goes!
In the meantime, stay tuned for a full review of the GoRun Ride!
* Via this skeptical post about the introduction of the Skechers GoRun penned by Justin.