Mizuno Running 2014 Q&A
Every company has sales meetings, right? Once or twice a year they all get together to look at spreadsheets, crunch some numbers and sit through boring presentations. At Mizuno Running, we do it a bit different.
Sure, we have bi-annual “sales meetings”. Of course we talk numbers, goals, dollars, and ok… we even look at spreadsheets. I like to think of Mizuno Running sales meetings as an epic family reunion. Twice a year the whole family travels to Atlanta from California, Maine, Texas, Minnesota and everywhere in between to reconnect, share ideas, teach, learn, see the new product and of course… run!
The Mizuno Running family is a bond that is beyond the workplace, it’s more than running shoes, it’s not just a logo and we are much more than coworkers. We are runners who have come together for a single purpose, to transform the world through running. This mission has never been clearer after our last sales meeting.
The 2014 product we will be rolling out is absolutely amazing, and as a shoe geek I was drooling over the shoes. I had to promise our Running Footwear Manager, Doug, no Instagrams, no Tweets, and no sneak peeks of the line-up. I made a deal with Doug and he agreed. If he answered all the questions you had I would keep my pictures and the 2014 secrets to myself.
I really appreciate Doug’s honesty in answering your questions, but more importantly we at Mizuno thank everyone asked these great questions!
Check out the Q&A below, and as always hit me up with your Mizuno questions on twitter @SethMizuno or shoot me an e-mail Seth@MizunoUSA.com
Q1: What is the number 1 challenge that a brand like Mizuno sees in the industry right now? What can you do about it?
A1: I wouldn’t say it’s a “challenge” as much as an opportunity, but we at Mizuno feel that running has the power to change lives for the better. We hear from countless runners who share stories of what the transformative power of running can do for them, and the positive effect it’s had not only on their health, but on so many other aspects of their lives. Putting more runners into this world gives us a purpose and reason for people to care about Mizuno.
Q2: [I love] my Sayonara[s], 300+ miles and I’m using them for all my workouts, but I’m real curious as to what Mizuno might be thinking about Sayonara 2, hoping they address the upper, make it more breathable, flexible, and resilient.
A2: I’m glad to hear the Wave Sayonara is working in this case. Overall, we’re thrilled with the feedback and how runners have embraced the Wave Sayonara. For the update due out in July 2014, our goal is to still deliver the experience of the first edition-Everyday Fast, ultra-smooth ride, dissolving upper fit-but make slight, nuanced improvements where impossible. It won’t be a sharp departure from the current Wave Sayonara, but I can promise an even better experience with the Wave Sayonara 2.
Q3: If you met a new runner today, why would you recommend Mizuno vs. another brand? What sets Mizuno apart from the other shoes on the wall? (Besides the fact they pay you.)
A3: At Mizuno, it’s really all about the run, and putting less between the runner and having a transcendent running experience. We obsess about fit and making sure that our shoes feel like an extension of the body, and work in perfect harmony with the runner with every stride. What really sets Mizuno apart is how our shoes run. It’s not until you’re into the run that the shoe feels like it’s disappeared off your foot, and every stride is smooth and flowing. This is something I discovered when I worked at a specialty store and got to run in all the brands and I feel so even more now that I’m lucky enough to be part of the team at Mizuno.
Q4: [We currently] see lots of brands just adding shoes to their lineup, but I notice Mizuno has consolidated some shoes into one. Why?
A4: Great question. At Mizuno, we want every one of our shoes to have a unique experience, one unlike that of any of the other shoes in our lineup, but with the common DNA of any Mizuno running experience (A smooth ride, dissolving fit of the upper, barely there weight). With some of the advancements we’ve made in our technology recently, we are able to make our shoes both lighter and more versatile (i.e., suited well for both neutral runners and those in need of guidance). By merging older models into new styles like the Wave Sayonara, we’re able to deliver what runners wanted in older Mizuno shoes, yet still create a new, distinct running experience that shows the very best of Mizuno innovation. If we have an opportunity to be progressive and consolidate models into an even better running experience, we will.
Q5: How does Mizuno decide which shoes to release in widths?
A5: We assess widths based on the overall popularity of a shoe, along with what we’re hearing from ‘the market’ (runners and our retail partners). Also, since there are relatively fewer width options in the market, we tend to look at models where we’ve built a following of runners who buy the width options and try to keep those going forward, instead of switching season to season.
Q6: I’ve heard Mizuno widths are constricted differently than other brands. Is this true?
A6: Every brand’s construction varies, so I can only speak for how Mizuno does it. For widths, we recognize the importance of creating the best fit possible, from the ground up. Our wide width options have a wider base than our standard width options, and the upper is modified as well so that they are still supporting and holding the foot in all the right places. By making these adjustments, we’re still able to create a conforming fit that works in perfect harmony with the runner.
Q7: I’ve been a long time Nirvana (or Alchemy) runner and am scared to try anything new. Will the Paradox work for me, and is it as stable? Why did you discontinue the Nirvana in the first place?
A7: The Wave Paradox is as stable as the Wave Alchemy, though tremendously lighter at 10.6 oz. For a runner who’s worn both shoes, I am extremely confident you’ll find the Wave Paradox a more than worthy replacement. I truly believe it’s one of our most innovative models to date, and delivers an unbelievable, stable ride that fits like a dream. Change is always a bit scary, but we wouldn’t be making these decisions if we weren’t confident we’re creating a superior running experience.
Q8: The new Mizunos seem to fit a bit different, I like how the toe is less sprung. Is that something you will stick with in the entire line, and why was this change made?
A8: For our new last, we’ve lowered the toe-spring in the forefoot for a more refined fit. This lower angle puts the foot closer to the ground, and creates a more stable platform at toe-off.
Q9: How valuable is actual runner feedback to Mizuno when updating models? Do you even listen to reviews?
A9: I used to wonder this as well and I can unequivocally say that, yes, we listen to runner feedback when we’re working on future models. We get as much runner and wear-tester feedback as we can, as well as a heavy reliance on our R&D/internal testing program. I can say that in my 12 years in the industry, I’ve never known of a shoe that was universally loved or despised by ever runner. But I can say the influence of runner feedback weighs heavily in our decision making progress.
Q10: Is it hard trying to update/improve a shoe each year, yet still be consistent and true to the core of the shoe?
A10: Great question here. We try to stay grounded when we update models, and strive to deliver the experience runners most loved about the successor. Also, we strive to be progressive and surpass runners’ expectations in terms of experience.
Q11: I’d love to know how long the process is from initial concept, design, R&D etc…until the shoe ends up on my feet? Are you guys already working on Wave Sayonara 3?
A11: Yes, work has already begun on the Wave Sayonara 3. It’s typically an 18 month process to bring a shoe from concept to retail shelves!
Q12: Running shoes seem to be getting out of hand on colors, how hard is it to pick out what colors each shoe gets and how do you pick?
A12: I’ve likened choosing colors to holding the remote and trying to pick a TV channel in a crowded room-you’re never going to please everyone here, so it’s best to do your research and have a plan. We work with a color trend agency to help us with our seasonal selection, and also consider feedback we’ve received from running retailers and consumers. Also, our colors have to marry up with our design language, and the message we want to project with each model. It’s by no means an exact science, but I do believe have a smart, sound effort and strategy that results in a great final product.
Q13: It seems every brand but Mizuno are doing cool special edition shoes. Saucony released the Boston edition of the Kinvara, New Balance just did the NYC marathon 890. How come Mizuno is not excited about these limited editions shoes?
A13: Stay tuned in 2014…I think you’ll like some things we have in the pipeline.
Q14: I run year round in wet, snowy, cold conditions. Other brands are offering shoes that are great for winter running (Nike Shield, Brooks GTX, Kinvara [G]oretex). Has Mizuno ever thought about an “all weather Rider”?
A14: We have never offered an “all-weather Rider”, but we do have a revamped Trail Running Collection hitting the market in June 2014. Along with trail-specific running technologies that provide an unsurpassed off-road running experience, our Trail options have more durable, protected uppers to tackle inclement conditions, along with an ultra-aggressive outsole pattern to provide multidirectional on slick or uneven surfaces. If you’re a Wave Rider fan and taking your runs to some challenging conditions, I’d highly recommend checking out our Trail lineup.
Q15: I think the Wave can sometimes stifle Mizunos own creativity… Would you ever consider stepping outside of your own comfort zone and make a shoe without the wave plate?
A15: In the here and now, we use Wave Technology in our running footwear lineup because we believe that this delivers a superior running experience. One that Mizuno loyalists have come to love. However, Mizuno is built on a foundation of innovation and advancing existing technologies. We’re constantly exploring ways to advance our product offering and give runners an even more transcendent run.
Q16: How light is too light? Everyone is trying to make the lightest and fastest shoes, but somewhere [there] must be a point of diminished return. How do you get as light as possible without sacrificing the ride of huge shoe?
A16: Light is too light when it starts to take away from the experience we want to deliver through a specific model. There’s a huge difference between taking away parts and pieces to make a shoe light, and being stripping away all non-essentials and getting down to the essence of what makes up a great running experience. One of our guiding principles is to deliver ‘just enough’ to a runner. Nothing more and nothing less than is required for a perfect run. As much as we’d like to make our shoes incredibly light, we’ll never take away the essentials of what makes up a great Mizuno running experience.