Lululemon is synonymous with innovation — it pretty much created the athleisure category, after all. So it comes as no surprise that the company's brand-new foray into footwear embraces a unique approach: starting with a women's collection, flipping the typical script.
"A woman’s foot is different than a man’s," notes Chief Product Officer Sun Choe, speaking at the debut of the shoes in Manhattan this morning. "And yet most performance shoes are designed for men first and adapted for women later."
Instead of treating women as an afterthought, Lulu is leaning in. (It's no coincidence that this launch takes place on International Women's Day, after all.) The brand's highly anticipated line of footwear is engineered specifically for the female foot, including design elements like the heel cup that diminishes soft-tissue impact across the body.
Adding footwear to its lineup wasn't a spur of the moment decision for the fitness juggernaut — the brand spent years designing and developing its first line of shoes, which include four sporty styles that seek to address the concerns and body ergonomics of female athletes.
"Innovating for women has been at the core of the brand for over 20 years," adds Choe. "We did countless rounds of wear testing, gathering feedback from thousands of women."
So, what are the details?
As mentioned above, Lululemon announced four new athletic shoes, designed specifically for women, this morning. Blissfeel, the brand's running shoe, will be available online and in select stores across North America, Mainland China and the United Kingdom beginning on March 22. Lulu also announced three additional styles, to be released in the coming months: the Chargefeel, Strongfeel and Restfeel.
We'll go in-depth with what is available the soonest, and the one that female runners had the opportunity to test at the Manhattan launch event: Blissfeel. The shoe features an upper that supports movement, as well as underfoot foam cushioning tech that transfers energy to the runner. The Blissfeel will be available in 10 colors later this month.
"What sets it apart is the cushioning, quality and durability," says Lululemon ambassador — and world-class runner — Jasmine Blocker, who played a key role in the shoe's development, wear-testing and giving notes during dozens of workouts on a private track. "They were very receptive to my feedback. I have tried a million brands, and it's hard to find one that fits right. It’s just my favorite shoe, and I can’t say it enough."
Of course, she is a bit biased. So while our man on the ground couldn't actually run in the shoes, he joined the short test run to gather thoughts from the many female runners in attendance. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with the shoe drawing comparisons to Hoka and Nike Free running shoes, among others. The former comp owes largely to the cushioning underfoot, which encourages a comfortable heel-to-toe stride. The latter comp references the shoe's somewhat unstructured upper, a foot-friendly breathable mesh.
We only ran 2.5 miles, so it's impossible for anyone to comment on the durability at this point. But the look and feel of the footwear is pretty promising. Two local ambassadors plan to wear it during a 70-mile run in Southern California later this year — a true acid test.
The Chargefeel is Lulu's foray into cross-training — it's designed for gym time and short runs and features a dual-density midsole for energy dampening and return, plus an upper that provides midfoot support. The Chargefeel will be available in summer 2022.
The Strongfeel is the brand's response to the needs of female athletes in training mode. Designed for multi-directional movement, the shoe has been crafted with a low profile, supportive midsole and multi-directional outsole that moves with and supports the wearer. The Strongfeel is launching in fall 2022.
Last but not least, we have the Restfeel — an elevated slide meant for post-workout recovery. Taking advantage of the same performance philosophy that molded Lululemon's athletically-focused footwear, the Restfeel is an ergonomically and aesthetically pleasing everyday sandal. The Restfeel launches this summer.
But what about the guys, you ask? You'll have to wait a bit: Lululemon says it will release its men's footwear collection in 2023, with the same intentionality and insight-driven approach the brand took with its women's line. Stay tuned, fellas.