Thinking on our feet: innovating the run at Brooks
From bathing slippers and ballet shoes to roller skates, baseball cleats, and more, footwear has always been our thing. But in 2001, we decided to focus on the run — the rest is history.
A running start
Disco, flares and running all became trends in the 1970s. Luckily for us (and your feet), one of those stuck around. The sport became a big deal in the USA in 1972 when Frank Shorter became the first American since 1908 to win the Olympic marathon. His victory helped kick off a running boom in the USA.
Two years later, we started innovating our shoe technology with runner feedback. We developed the Villanova with help from Olympic middle-distance runner Marty Liquori. This shoe propelled us into the company of other big-name shoemakers. Then in 1974, the Vantage became the first Brooks shoe to hit number 1 in Runner’s World.
For the next 25 years, we continued to innovate running-shoe technology and found out we’re pretty great at it. So much so that we decided to focus solely (sorry, we had to) on running shoes.
In 2001, running became our singular passion.
What’s your signature?
Our Run Signature philosophy has been our guiding principle in running-shoe technology for almost a decade.
Run Signature is the scientific concept that each runner’s body is unique, and therefore we can each benefit from different product features to ensure optimal performance, comfort, and reduced injury risk.
We know that there is not one way to run. Each runner’s posture is slightly different at landing and throughout the running step. This is because every runner’s anatomy is unique. Because of our unique anatomy, each one of us has a path of least resistance in our joints, which we call the habitual motion path. We believe that a shoe should promote movement along this habitual motion path to minimise unwanted deviations that lead to increased loading on the joints. We also believe that focus should be on keeping the knee ¬— not just the foot — in its habitual motion path since this is where most running injuries happen.
Run Signature is about guidance, not correction. We’re not here to fix your running style — there’s no wrong way to run. Instead, identifying your Run Signature stabilises your stride. This helps prevent injury and provides the best possible run experience for you.
Insights and more insights
Have you ever wondered how running shoes are made? When we concept, create and build our shoes, we start with the runner first. We’ve talked with thousands of runners around the world to understand what they want on the run. We call these findings runner insights. We rely on real runner feedback to determine fit, function and design of our future products.
Our work in the lab, which we call our science insights, goes hand in hand with our runner insights. We study biomechanics, or the way your body moves on the run. We bring runners into the lab so we can look at everything from exact toe movements and foot strikes to changes in stride over the duration of a run.
In addition, our full mechanical lab tests every part of the shoe. We test for things like energy return with an impact tester, flexibility to see how smoothly they move with the foot from heel-strike to toe-off, and durability over the course of 1,500 miles. For perspective, that’s a really long run from London to Moscow, OK.
All this data we collect from runner and science insights help us understand the body in motion from every angle.
Let’s talk about tech, baby
We’ve been stuffing awesome innovations into our running shoes since the 70s. Some have helped you feel fast, some comfortable, and others stable.
Check out our innovation timeline to learn more about some of the neat things we’ve developed over the years:
1977: Varus Wedge – reduces overpronation
1983: Diagonal Rollbar – a denser foam on the inside of the shoe that keeps runners from rotating inward and toward the outside and a softer EVA to keep the shoe from tilting awkwardly for walkers
1986: Kinetic Wedge – forefoot stabilising wedge allows the foot to arch more naturally, reducing stress-related injuries
1989: HydroFlow – two-chambered system that moves silicone fluid from a rear chamber into a front chamber of the shoe with each heel strike and then springs back when the heel lifts
2002: Progressive Diagonal Rollbar
2007: BioMoGo – first fully biodegradable midsole cushioning material
2014: GuideRails – provides holistic support that allows your hips, knees and joints to move the way you naturally do.
2017: DNA AMP – super springy cushioning, delivers best-in-class energy return
2018: DNA LOFT – our softest cushioning, which instantly adapts to the runners’ individual stride, weight and speed using a unique blend of materials to offer lightweight softness without sacrificing durability.
So, what’s on the horizon for innovation at Brooks? We are using our Run Signature philosophy to create more advanced personalisation options. For now, learn about which shoe technology might be best for you, and take our quick shoe finder quiz to get the perfect shoe for your workout.