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Brooks Running Sets the Pace for Growth

Specialty running products manufacturer adapts shoes to the runner and the run


The Challenge

Brooks Running Company enjoys a long history of keeping customers running longer, farther, faster and free from injury. From everyday joggers to high-profile athletes, runners have come to rely on the company’s devotion to creating innovative shoes.

Never a group to rest on its laurels, the Brooks design team decided to take the company’s shoes to an entirely new level by developing a truly adaptable cushioning system that would respond to the unique characteristics of each runner -- from weight, gait and running surface, to pressures and speeds. As if that weren’t enough, they also wanted to create a unique energy-return midsole that would add spring to the runner’s step.

This wasn’t the first time a shoe manufacturer had taken a run at this challenge. Other shoe companies had developed electro-mechanical systems to adapt cushioning stiffness, but runners were generally unhappy with the results. The Brooks design team knew it was up to the challenge, and they were confident they could create a breakthrough running shoe. But to do so, they needed to find a material that could deliver a fast reaction time -- a runner’s foot-strike time is 40-50 milliseconds from heel to toe – and the ability to both absorb energy and offer top-notch energy return properties.

The Solution

The Brooks design team members turned to PolyOne for help developing a solution that would work seamlessly with Brooks’ proprietary TPE blend used in the shoe's midsoles. 

Working together, teams from both companies created a customized TPE material that matched the performance of the Brooks TPE blend. The result? All of the components in the midsole worked together to create a shoe with custom cushioning and optimum energy absorption and return.

“Synergy in concert was the key to success in this application,” said Derek Campbell, Brooks future concepts manager. “The components and materials were carefully designed and engineered to work together properly and optimized for geometry, thickness, flexibility and performance.”

The Impact

It didn’t take long for the Glycerin®8 shoe to hit the ground running. Within a month of the new product release, Runner’s World magazine featured it as the “Editor’s Choice” in its Shoe Guide. 

“We can now offer shoes with a cushioning system that instantaneously adapts to a runner’s unique biomechanics, weight, pace, gait and surface,” Campbell said. “This is a feature that no one else can offer, giving us a clear competitive advantage.”

But that was just the first of many accolades for the shoe, which also delivered wins in sales, performance and sustainability.

  • Increased sales: Retail bookings in the first year of the new shoe increased 40 percent over the previous model.
  • Performance improvement: At the highest energy impacts, based on 7 to 9 mph for a large runner, Brooks testing shows the TPE-based system provides a 30-50 percent improvement in cushioning over traditional systems.
  • Reduced energy usage and scrap: Previous cushioning systems required a four-step manufacturing process. Switching to PolyOne's GLS™ TPEs enabled Brooks to move to a single injection molding process, yielding a 30-40 percent reduction in energy usage and a projected savings of $80,000 to $100,000 annually. 

As one final benefit, Brooks is regrinding and reusing its post-industrial scrap, further reducing its environmental footprint.

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