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Puma has a long history in performance footwear. And the brand’s presence in track and field has remained steady—Usain Bolt, anyone?—but Puma has placed a newfound focus on road running, creating new technologies and releasing five fresh silhouettes March 9 that work to rebuild the category from scratch.
“In terms of road running, we haven’t been a well-known brand,” says Erin Longin, Puma global director of run/train. “We have always made it and offered it in our collection but haven’t had a real brand focus in quite some time. The approach this time has been very different. The brand is behind it, our research and development is behind it. This is a long-term commitment.”
To make an impact, Longin says they needed to throw out everything Puma had been doing and start with research and development, using in-house designers, hiring a biomechanical expert, partnering with multiple universities and working with chemists to create relevant products.
With the release of five models—the Deviate, Deviate Elite, Velocity, Liberate and Eternity—Longin says “every bit of it is new.”
The reentry starts with a fresh Nitro Foam cushioning technology, which spans all five products. “The basis of a great running shoe is a great form, so we definitely started there and spent so much time trying to figure out how to have one of the great innovations out there,” she says. Nitro uses foam infused with nitrogen to expand into a midsole. While the process isn’t new, Longin says using “premium raw materials” from the start and nitrogen as the main gas keeps the entire process high-end, resulting in a lightweight foam that doesn’t lose its responsiveness inherent in the raw materials.
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While not flashy, Puma also focused on creating fresh rubber technology for the outsole. “We scrapped all the rubber compounds we had and asked how we can work with our own chemist to create what we think is a really unbelievable rubber,” Longin says. The result is a Puma Grip compound meant for traction in all conditions.
Puma started with five styles to tick multiple running preference boxes. The Deviate Elite features a Puma-designed carbon fiber plate that acts as a lever for propulsion and efficiency, something growing more common in the high-end running market. This shoe gives the true elite road racer an option. The Deviate is a similar model geared more toward training and also with a carbon-composite plate.
For the runner seeking comfort and durability during everyday fitness run, Puma made the Velocity. Serious runners looking for something lower to the ground can select the Liberate. With its minimal design and one-piece layer of Nitro Foam contrasting the trend of chunkier products, a size nine comes in at just 6.1 ounces. The Eternity represents a “modernized” stability shoe with technology meant to keep the foot centered during the running gait cycle.
“We have a balance of shoes that go fast and shoes that offer everyday comfort in neutral and stability,” Longin says.
Expect new offerings in late 2021 and into 2022, complete with technology Puma hopes turns heads, but without losing sight of fans of the five debut silhouettes. “We are going to balance the idea of innovation on the one hand and consistency,” she says. “We want runners to fall in love with products and feel confident they can come back to Puma and get a second version, the same great shoe but slightly improved as we evolve the models.”
Along the way, Puma has put a premium on creating specifically for women. As more women move to running—data from 2019 show more women signed up for races globally than men—Puma did something unusual for the industry by creating women’s-specific fits from the outset of the design process. With women’s feet tending to be narrower in the heel, causing slippage if not tailored correctly, Longin says Puma tested products from the start in women’s sizing, getting feedback from both men and women along the way instead of retrofitting a design near the end of development to match women’s sizing.
Puma has a long history in soccer and track and field, more recently adding performance golf. The brand also reentered the basketball market in 2018 but had been waiting for the right time to stop dabbling in road running and really go all-in on performance. “We knew as a brand to become known in that (running) world, we had to have a strong commitment to it, a long-term approach,” Longin says. “The brand was waiting for the right time and we have seen a lot of growth over the last several years and the time felt right for Puma to grow in the future from a performance point of view.”