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Do podiatrists work for shoe companies ?

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by FREDZIO, Jul 25, 2007.


    FREDZIO Member

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    Hi, everyone.
    I am always wondering if the shoe companies employ foot health professionals.
    Who stays behind the science, research implemented in all these hitec new shoes?
    Who is doing all these inventions and development ?
    Is this "health" driven or marketing driven.
    I believe - health (marketing to some extent too, but main trends is health).
    So - do you know anyone responsible for these "health gadgets" ;) design in shoe companies ?

    I found out that you often analyse here (on this forum) some issues of running shoes design - but it would be easier to address these questions directly to people responsible for the design in a shoe company - Adidas, Nike, Asics or others.
    Or - is it such a secret that they woulnd't reply beeing affraid of the competition?

    Best Regards
    a runner
  2. Cameron

    Cameron Well-Known Member


    Shoe retail is a very competitive industry and footwear is marketed as commodity for pure profit. Shoes have a retail mark up of approx 300%.
    Any reference to health benefits are usually secondary in mainstream footwear and more to do with marketing than shoe design. It is really the exception if a pod is involved in shoe design but they do exist. Most podiatrists if they are involved at all, is at the stage of promotion and marketing but out an out endorsement of named products by podiatrists can contravene professional membership in some countries. So it is a colurtesy to say a pod was involved on the design team. There are some pods who are shoe makers and podorthists and they will combine health concerns into their shoe designs but these rarely involve mainstream footwear.

    Very few of the shoe designers I am acquainted with know much about feet at all, but they do have expertise in shoe manufacture and design shoes to meet fashion dictates. Much of which revolves around economies.

    Ironically the people who know least about shoes are podiatrists who often are completley unaware of the complexities of the industry and especially how shoes are sold. Of course there are exceptions to this and most pods will have a working knowledge of quality footwear and their availability.

    >but it would be easier to address these questions directly to people responsible for the design in a shoe company - Adidas, Nike, Asics or others.

    That is top secret and lay people trying to get genuine information from existing sources can be very complex and incredibly time consuming. Marketing rhetoric is usually the least reliable source.

    Designers are sworn to total secrecy because of the competative nature of the business.


    FREDZIO Member

    So who is behind the research made for all these Trusstic, IGS as taking Asics for example ? Marketeers ? There must be some engeneering staff combining knowledge of many areas - foot health, material technology etc.

    Probabbly - these companies wont reveal who these people are being affraid that some competitors may play unfair, offering a bribe for some concepts ? :)

    So we are situated in a position when we can only test, review and other peoples work and can't help much in bringing some concepts that could make running shoes better.

    This is a bit frustrating. I am myselve a runner with some years experience, who tested many stability shoes, have some understanding of the feet's needs (very little ofcourse comparing to what you have) but have no way to discuss ideas with designers. :(
  4. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    The international research director for asics (I think that is his title) is a podiatrist and a member here. I know of 4 other podiatrists who work for different running shoe companies here in Melbourne, but they are not in product development, but in marketing and/or training.
  5. Peter

    Peter Well-Known Member

    I could not agree more. I work with an orthotist of many years experience, and am frequently surprised as to how good they are at troubleshooting fitting problems.
  6. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    Its frustrating wen one tries to fit peoples feet in shoes designed and built around pointed lasts with few resemblance with the human foot.

    Recently attended to a conference and after asked two questions to the lab director for one of biggest athletic footwear companies, my thought was "They never ad to Fit one foot in their life, how can they design proper footwear?"

    FREDZIO Member

    Wow - these are serious accusations ;)

    What is "Fit" when it comes to running shoes ?
    Do you think this feet fits the shoe ? [​IMG]
    This is my feet next to my shoe that I feel comfortable in.
    It doesn't seem to fit in a standard way - but it fits perfectly when it comes to a 30 km run. It least - these are my feelings.
  8. Fredzio:

    I bet you would run your 30 km faster if you wore the shoe for your right foot on your right foot, instead of wearing the shoe for your left foot on your right foot. :p
  9. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    Not accusation, just my thought's, But probably a fact

    "Fitting" (the way I see it): its a mixt between art and science to make the naturally static shoe and the naturally dynamic foot work together a not against.

    It sounds simple....

    Comfort (as I define it) It's equal to discomfort tolerance.

    Fredzio please follow this link to a footwear design forum:

  10. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

  11. Stanley

    Stanley Well-Known Member

    Fredzio, during the running boom when podiatrists were held in higher regard than a brain surgeon, podiatrist worked with shoe companies. There was Steve Subotnik who had designed the varus wedge for Brooks , and Rob Roy MacGreagor who developed the Dynamic Heel Cradle for Etonic.

    I can speak about Nike, as I was involved with them in the early 1990's for a while when I licensed them a patent. Nike had a biomechanics department run by, at the time, Gordon Valiant. He was an engineer. They had in their main area a force plate and a slow motion video. I remember in particular one room devoted to shoe wear, where they put a shoe in a clamp and had it adjustable to the amount of weight, and they ran it against an abrasive, and they had a counter for the amount of rotations the abrasive wheel would make.

    Market driven. Marketing has the final say on all projects. Nike had a basketball shoe with an internal brace that would stop all ankle sprains. Marketing did not want to talk about the negatives of sport so the project was shelved.

    There are intellectual property issues when you deal with a shoe company. Say for instance you show them a running shoe that prevents shin splints. Before you can show it to them, you have to sign a non disclosure statement so they are protected. They may be coincidentally developing the same shoe, and if you show it to them, then they may be in a legal dispute about the rights to the design.
    The best thing to do is to design something and get a patent. Then you can try to sell it to a shoe company. I have had four patents that I have tried to sell, and I can tell you it is not easy. I remember the very first question they would ask is "Did you show it to Nike?", and the second question was "what did they say?" Most of the companies used to copy each other. At the sporting good shows, some companies would send their reps over to the other booths to see the new designs. Nike had a department of external patents, and they contacted me, because the claims of my patent prevented them from continuing their work on a similar design.
    If you try to be a nice guy, they will take advantage of you and steal your idea. My friend was a rep for Dexter, and he had me meet one of the vice presidents. He started the conversation with "I would like to do be able to do biomechanical analysis of shoes." I started talking about force plates, and he asked the price. I told him it would be $100,000, and he then asked me what I though about his bowling shoe. I showed him how it was curled up on the sides and how it was unstable. He asked how I would show this, so I got my pedograph (ink mat) and showed him how little of the shoe was touching the ground. He asked how I would fix it, and I told him I would put a strip of material around the edges. Next thing I know, they are producing the shoe, and became the number one brand in bowling.

    Regarding lasts, in the past there were definate disasters (ie. the metatarsus adductus last of the early adidas). When I was at Nike, they were doing arthrometric measurements of children's feet. I don't know what they did with the data, but they were looking at it.

    I hope this helps.


  12. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member


    FREDZIO Member

    Guys, thanks, this helps a lot.
    Before I make a comment on Stanley's thoughts - a word to Paolo Silva.

    This is funny, but just a few days ago I got in touch with this guy
    http://www.asp.lodz.pl/bartie/ - and he promissed me to talk with me on the various aspects of the design process. The good thing is that we are both Polish :) so there wont be a language problem.

    Thank you very mouch fo a detailed answer.
    A strange thing to me - you all confirm this - that this is all marketing driven.
    I can imagine a marketing driven look of the shoe, the upper of the shoe, the general trends.
    But not the outsole, not the midsole ?!?!

    An outsole with dual density was not designed or even suggested by any marketing guys. Someone had an idea, probbably patented it and sold. Marketing guys in Asics came last and called it Duomax.
    But all these companies have their research, development deparments and they probbably have their own concepts. So I am trying to find out - what are their concepts, their focus, what stays behing some changes they do.

    Maybe you can explain to me current "trends" ?
    There are some "trends".

    Why did Mizuno stopped producing Wave Legend ? Was it stopped because it was TOO stable and had some negative effect on other parts of the leg ?

    Why did Nike seem to stopped producing really stable shoes? Kanthara was replaced with Structure Triax (which Craig assignes to a absolutely new group, I don't know Craig if you are still promoting this idea ?) - why ?

    Does Adidas realise how extraoridinary good shoes they designed with their AdiStar line and that they should not change much and continue it for a long time ?

    Can Asics explain to me what is so extraoridinary in Gel Kinsei ?

    So - these are the questions I would like to ask someone.
    Whom should I adress them ?

    Maybe - I am trying to get into it to deep.
    Maybe it is all much more simple?

    I don't know if you agree but from the running point of view the key health foot problem is excesive pronation.

    So - what is responsible in a shoe for the pronation control?
    Outsole - should be light but stiff to some extent, not allow for the inward rotation
    Midsole - these are what you call them orthosis, no ? - i don't know much about what they should be like. Good - I suppose :)

    But - Outsole and Midsole should work togehter to control, minimise the pronation.

    And this is it ! It is simple. Are these new gadgets really doing something for the food health or these are JUST gadgets and all these changes in the offer I pointed above are some mistakes or a sensless marketing play?

    FREDZIO Member

    Admin2 - thanks a lot for the links.
  15. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member

    You welcome. Its my job ... its what I do :)
  16. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    According with Mario Lafortune from Nike's Research Lab, they are focused on the "control at origin", instead of the traditional midsole double density or control gadgets, and also after myself asked him the same question he told me that "In Europe you over sell motion control shoes, only about 20% of runners needs Control/Stability"

    I see it as a concept shoe (wen you go to a auto show you see concept cars, were the designers apply new concepts), for me it's about the same, I don't see the Kinsei as a really serious running shoe. (in Portuguese I call these type of shoes "Marketing Animations"), I Think this shoe exists for the consumer that are running with Nike shox, Adidas 1 or Nike Air 360, that usually don't look ASICS for running shoes.
  17. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    I Forgot:

    Usually if the costumer goes to a running specialist chances are he/she byes a Control/Stability shoe because of the sales associates help.

    If He/she doesn't have a clue about shoes and go to a general sports store chances are he/she will bye the lightest most flexible running shoe available.

    Do the math how many pair of running shoes are sold in this planet in speciality running stores?

    very few, so for the manufactures its simply a question of numbers...

    FREDZIO Member

    Only 20% or runners needs Control/Stability ?
    I thought it is opposite - 80%.
  19. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    These wore his words

    Later I remembered that He told Nike works with professional athletes receiving their feed back on product development, and occurred to me that maybe only about 20% of Professional athletes needs Control/Stability (Don't know if its accurate but for me makes sense, a person with some kind of Biomechanical problem without help will not become professional), wile as a shoe fitter I never fitted really a professional athlete (only retired ones), and the type of persons I fit varies from the extreme runner to the occasional walker, also my fitting protocol as never been scientifically tested (yet).
  20. Stanley

    Stanley Well-Known Member

    R&D either develops or copies an idea, then marketing has the final say.

    Typically, a shoe company will follow the leader. See what Tech idea the leader comes up with, and then slightly modifies it and marketing tries to make it seem as if their idea is better. The first time I saw the idea of a dual density was when Dick Schuster drilled holes in the lateral part of the midsole for shin splints. Brooks came out with the Brooks Chariot, and as I recall this was the first shoe with a softer lateral midsole. This was extremely successful, so other companies copied the idea and modified it.

    Generally stable shoes tend to be heavier, and heavier shoes do not sell as well as lighter shoes.

    Having a stable Heel counter, correct heel height, a larger medial heel flare, having a higher durometer of the medial heel midsole, having more torsional stability of the midsole, and having a filled in shank area will help eliminate the shoes contribution to pronation.

    I hope this helps.


  21. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    G'day Stan and all o this thread.. hope you have recovered from the APMA meeting. Sorry we did not have a bit more opportunity to chat.

    So, I guess I should go on record about what I do. I am podiatrist from Australia who was the principle of an athlete care only practice for 20 years. I have been contracted to many professional sporting teams, and was a member of the podiatry team for the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games.

    I have had a life long passion for athletic footwear and I am now the International Research Consultant to the ASICS Corporation.
    I am directly involved in footwear reseach, design and development.

    I am afraid I must strongly disagree with the contention that the buck stops with marketing. At ASICS this categorically is not the case. It stands or falls on the strength of the concept, its biomechanical application, and how it stand up to pretty rigorous in vitro and in vivo testing.

    As a pod, I personally have had a large role in the development of the Gel Kayano, Gel Kinsei ( i was a part of the development team from day 1), the Gel Cardio and Assist, The Gel Lethal etc blah blah. In short.. I am pretty involved!

    As an example, we have taken concepts to market in sports with tiny market shares, that are unlikey to make significant dollars at all. They went to market because they were needed and they work. As an example, we developed a shoe for the crazy game of Australian Rules Football. Understand how difficult this was with a Japanese company!

    The first production run was 5000 pairs.. to put this in context, the GEL 2000 series sells about 500,000 pairs per year in the USA alone.

    Like wise, we NEVER copy ideas.. whats the point in that? A huge part of my job is to travel the globe attending the really important scientific meetings in Sports Medicine and biomechanics, and try to identify where the need for footwear is. Without wishing to sound to altruistic, we then try to make the sport safer for the athlete and reduce injury if possible.

    This is absolutely our biggest focus. The marketing boys only get a look in way.... way after the product is given the ok for production.

    hope this helps

  22. And you play a pretty mean electric guitar, if I must say so, Simon. When's our next gig??:cool:

    FREDZIO Member

    Simon/Toomoon - thank you for this post, I was really scared thinking that this is was all only a marketing domain.
    I feel some relief :)
  24. Stanley

    Stanley Well-Known Member

    Simon, thanks for your input. It was nice to meet you at the APMA meeting. I hope your trip home was less eventful than your trip to the meeting. Your talk was a great way to start things off.

    I am basing what I say on my experiences 20 years ago. Things may have changed, and maybe or maybe not only at ASICS. I remember a conversation I had with the head of external patents from Nike, and he told me that they had a basketball design that would eliminate all ankle sprains, but marketing stopped it because they didn’t want to give the sport, and the shoe a negative connotation.

    Simon, I had four different patents that I tried to sell at various times. I would go to the largest sporting goods shows with my friend who was a rep for Pony shoes. He would tell me how every shoe company would play “ring around the Nike”. This was reinforced when I would speak to the product managers from each of the shoe companies. The first question was, “Did you show it to Nike?” and the second question was “What did Nike say?” I remember how everyone tried to mimic Nike’s air design which was using a substance that would not have compression set issues to assist EVA. I remember that LA Gear had air chambers going in another direction, and Tiger introduced gel.

    I am glad that things have changed (at least for ASICS). There was no "tech" in any of the shoe companies when I was shopping my patents. In fact I remember that Reebok was boasting that they had two designers that used to work at Nike.:eek:


  25. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    Q: Footwear Design Process???

    A: Well: here is a rough outline of how it CAN work (it doesn't always go like this)

    1> Marketing (and hopefully design) look at last year's sales numbers, and generate a line plan (or range plan) detailing what models at what prices will need to be developed. This might reflect divesting of some businesses that did poorly (lets say $65 non-technical running has been doing poorly, the team might decide to get out of that price point, the line plan might reflect were growth will be (lets say $65 non-technical running has been successful, you might see additional sku's here, maybe some additional at $70 and $75 so we can improve the product), and there will probably be some gaps filled (Lets say there was no $65 non-technical running product, and there was a shoe with that spec that a competitor did well with... you get the idea)

    2> Marketing writes briefs for each product in the line based on retailer, sales, and consumer data and presents that to design and development which will probably have feedback for them to adjust.

    3> Design starts a research phase which might include travel to see athletes or inspirational sites.

    4> initial concept generation

    5> design presents initial concepts to key regional and sales representatives to see if they have any pertinent input

    6> concept refinement

    7> final concept presentations by design to VP's, merchandizing, regional reps, sales to get approval to move to prototyping.

    8> design adjustments, technical drawings, 3d modeling.

    9> travel to Asia to work with factory on samples.

    10> marketing presents samples to regional reps, sales, key accounts to get feedback

    11> design makes revisions based on feedback

    12> Might be another asia trip, some more feedback, some more revisions...

    13> Sales meetings, account sales visits, bookings, shoes get produced, shipped distributed...

    From Core 77 forum

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