Running shoes have benefited from major technological improvements over the last decade. New materials, construction methods and designs informed by biomechanical research have created shoes that make runners more comfortable, in better control, faster, more efficient and less prone to injury.
But what about laces? Despite all these advancements, runners still use traditional laces to connect foot and footwear.
Boa Technology, creators of The Boa System that uses ratchet dials and synthetic laces to hone in on a precise fit, is out to change that paradigm. Well-known in snowboard and cycling, BOA has launched a new product specifically designed for the running shoes.
“Our previous products were good, but weren’t not as great as they needed to be. We took a moment to figure out what we needed to do to translate the success we’ve had in those product categories into the kind of BOA that run deserves,” says Clark Morgan, manager for BOA Technology’s running division. “We talked to brands and said, ‘This is the type of BOA that we have right now. What are your ideas? What would you like BOA to be in order to be well-received in run category?'”
BOA’s new running product endured four rounds of extensive testing. More than 100 testers logged 1,800 hours and 20,000 miles evaluating BOA’s combination of dial, laces and guides to secure the shoes.
“Throw out the traditional way of closing shoes with a shoelace. Tell me how you want this shoe to fit, tell me how you want to use the shoe and let’s build that shoe from the ground up,” Morgan says. “It may not look anything like the traditional version may have looked like.”
As the first brands to produce new shoes with the new BOA system, New Balance launched the FuelCore Sonic ($109) and FuelCore Sonic Marvel ($129) road running models while ASICS debuted the Dynamis ($160) road running shoe and the GEL-Fujirado ($130) trail runner. Brand and product managers at each company worked closely with BOA to define the shoe’s function, design and intended audience.
“It’s about collaboration on a deep level,” Morgan says. “Don’t think of us as a part supplier. From the very beginning we are a collaborative partner. It’s not just a shoe with BOA put on top but a brilliant, ground-up collaboration of creating the perfect product for the use case they are looking to solve.”
The ability to dial in such a precise fit with BOA Technology is what makes the system unique, says Westin Galloway, global product line manager for performance running footwear at ASICS.
“It allows for micro-adjustability and quick on-the-fly tuning of your running shoes,” Galloway says. “This is something you cannot accomplish with traditional laces. BOA provides the opportunity for a unique customizable fit for the runner and opens an opportunity for people that are looking for a different fit solution to try an ASICS shoe.”
New Balance debuted a BOA closure system in 2016 on the Vazee Sigma Sprint spike, worn by sprinter Trayvon Bromell in the U.S. Olympic Trials and the Rio Olympics.
“Creating the Vazee Sigma spikes was an amazing process between product creators and a professional athlete,” says Claire Wood, manager of global performance running at New Balance. “Both the BOA design team and New Balance design team worked together, and with Tray, engineered a design ideal for him and for the consumer.”
Introducing millions of runners to a new, unconventional approach to lacing will require a willingness to put on a pair of BOA-equipped shoes. A familiar scenario runners face with laces clarifies the benefit, Morgan says.
“Think about bouncing up and down In that last 45 seconds before a marathon. Every runner knows what it’s like in that situation,” Morgan says. “Both shoes are double-knotted super tight because you don’t want the knots to come undone. One is too loose and one is too tight but you settle because that’s the way it is. With BOA you can lean down in the last seconds and put your shoe precisely the way you deserve to have it.”
“There are certainly runners who are open to what is to the eye, unordinary. Everything was unordinary before it became ordinary, and that’s part of what makes our jobs fun,” Wood says. “We do things to make shoes better and continue to bring energy to the running experience.”
“We have found that there are many consumers out there that are looking for new experiences with footwear. It really is a new experience for a running shoe and you really have to put it on your feet to feel it,” Galloway says.
Kurt Decker, owner, Twin Cities Running Company, says, “When more models that come out with BOA the system won’t seem so ‘different’ compared to standard lacing. Once runners try a pair on and see how the technology works they will get it.”
BOA Technology’s collaboration with ASICS and New Balance is just the beginning of the brand’s intention to expand into running segment.
“From 10 ft away BOA looks clean and integrated in a shoe, from 1 foot away you are still wondering what this is, it doesn’t look alien or foreign, looks completely integrated. At one inch, you pick up the shoe and BOA looks like it belongs and is part of the shoe,” says Morgan. “Once you put on a BOA shoe you can’t unlearn what it’s like. How did I not know about this before? You will never be the same.”