Form and Function: Athletic Shoe Improvements You’ll See On Shelves in 2017

Read up on which brands are stepping up their game before you invest in a new pair.

Anyone who’s ever invested in a quality exercise shoe knows it truly can make or break your workout. But finding the right athletic shoe for you is no easy feat. On your search for the perfect pair, you have to consider comfort, quality, style and structure. And, of course, you’ve got to be a fan of the look and design. To keep up with this constant demand for a faster, softer and overall more appealing shoe, athletic brands have to constantly step up their game. That means truly understanding the needs of their customers from a first-hand basis—which is just what they all do!

So before you splurge on your next new pair of fit kicks, tap into what top athletic brands have in the mix for the 2017 season:

New Balance

What’s new: Max cushioning, stable cushioning and sleek fast cushioning, even on the trails.

Before New Balance starts designing their kicks each season, they study actual runners—both professional New Balance athletes and everyday runners—in their Sports Research lab in Lawrence, Mass. They do this to learn what the body is doing at a microscopic level to determine areas of support, cushioning or comfort. That means customers can continue to look forward to the brand’s data-driven design in both running and training shoes in 2017. One key change, however, can be seen with their female-geared products, which are becoming more versatile. Rather than catering to one type of workout consistently, New Balance has started developing their female footwear for those taking yoga, bootcamp, spin, running and even dance classes.

Reebok

What’s new: Bootie sock-like constructions, engineered knits and fully knitted uppers.

Reebok’s main goal for their 2017 line is to fulfill consumers’ specialized performance needs—not only for hitting the track. This means their shoes are changing in the direction of design to accommodate boxing, CrossFit, barre, dance and Les Mills programming to deliver proven solutions. With the evolution of training, footwear for Reebok has come from the growth in versatility, where they are focusing on building consumers a the most developed shoe for everyday life, as well as for versatile classes like boot camp, HIIT and traditional gym workouts like elliptical use and cycling. Because more consumers are wearing tights, leggings and yoga pants for the office, social occasions and the gym than ever before, Reebok is bringing a modernized approach to basic shoe silhouettes—delivering both a style and comfort need. The infusion of modern mélange, soft hand and luxury materials in silhouettes that address as much style as performance will drive the product in 2017.

Brooks

What’s new: Streamlined engineering designs intended to improve the runner’s performance and provide more reward (and fun!).

Come January 2017, Brooks will be releasing updated versions of some of our most-loved styles, the Launch and Ravenna. They also have an exciting update to the Neuro, which was first introduced this past year. The Launch 4 gets a boost from an added row of rebounding rubber under the forefoot, while the redesigned U-Groove at the heel frees neutral runners to truly run their own way. Add in a streamlined upper with a light on-foot feel and you’ve got the perfect vehicle for fun, comfortable and out-of-this-world runs.The Ravenna 8 offers a sleek and springy ride packed with responsive cushioning and trusted support to make any run seem short, while fast heel-to-toe transitions keep feet moving quickly from one stride to the next. Lastly, the Neuro 2 is built to go fast any day. This performance-enhancing shoe delivers speed by pairing Brooks’ best-in-class fit biometrics technology with instantaneous energy return.

Mizuno

What’s new: Revolutionizing their Wave technology to be softer and smoother, while still maintaining that bouncy and lively feel runners want.

In 2016, Mizuno noticed that the cushioning at the initial heel impact of their shoe was lacking when it came to their traditional Wave technology. To remedy this, the company utilized two large testing groups—one in Vancouver, Canada and one in Atlanta-Atlanta Track Club in (you guessed it!) Atlanta. These tests involved multiple prototypes to isolate certain elements of the shoe to determine what’s working and what’s not. These tests were carried out by 60 runners over a two- or three-day period. At the end, each runner completed a personal evaluation comparing previous versions of these specific shoes to determine what needed to stay and what needed to go. After prototype testing, analyzing the results and having actual conversations with runners, Mizuno was convinced that Wave technology needed to evolved.

Their focus for their 2017 line gravitated towards creating prototypes that offered a smoother ride with more simplified midsoles and less layers of material. The goal with using new layers of materials was to allow for more support and stretch, mirroring the natural movement of the foot while it’s running. This inspired their brand-new foam formula for their U4ic foam midsoles—33 percent more responsive than it’s previous version. The changes to color and design are also something we can expect to see newly developed in 2017 in the form of mesh patterns that give the shoe a better feel and look.