This week was spent working hard out at the Running Event put on by Formula 4 Media for run specialty retailers. As a run specialty brand we had a presence as we do every year here in Austin, TX. This event has a lot of special meaning for us as a brand since it is where we launched our brand with three models and a few demo shoes back in 2011. It was here we showed up with a small table setup and some banners to educate retailers on Altra and the benefits of FootShape? Zero Drop? running shoes. We convinced a surprising number of retailers and industry people that we were onto something, though we had limited prototypes. It is great remembering those days.
Now as I attend this show I help the sales guys get ready for three great days of meeting with retailers, I work on strengthening relationships with publications, websites and other brands. It is great to be able to go around and visit with the brands that I have solid relationships with. Here I will spell out some of the great items that stood out to me at the show.
1. Ultimate Direction
I love what Buzz Burrell can think up! He is a guy that really gets it. He loves to put in the miles in the backcountry and always wants to solve a problem that he faces while out there. This passion brought about an amazing fastpack this year as well as great collaboration with some of the country’s top ultra runners to create a solid hydration line.
Well, he was up to it again with the development of the best two jackets I have EVER seen! Ultimate Direction has worked hard to develop two solid gear pieces releasing this upcoming summer; a 2.5 oz windbreaker half zip pullover jacket and my personal favorite a 4.5 oz fully waterproof, hooded, rain jacket. These both have great hand feel and appear to be a good breathable product that won’t be like a plastic bag against the skin. The rain jacket has a sweet bill to keep water out of your face and I am super excited on the weight, especially if they perform the way we all expect!
2. Stance socks
These guys have been around for a while doing casual socks, ski socks and team sports socks. This upcoming year they are looking to launch into technical run. An associate of mine that was formerly with Injinji is heading up the project and as you can see they are doing a great job. They have all that they need in technical features to provide a great run sock and the style will give the consumer something different than a typical white or fluorescent sock. Excited to get these on my feet and try them out.
Garmin has been providing great solutions in GPS for many years now. Way back to when I got my first 305 I have relied on Garmin in giving me my distance, pace, time, etc. I recently got the Fenix 2 and it has been great for longer pursuits as well time spent in the backcountry. I love the extended battery life, temperature, barometric pressure reading, GPS usage when connected to my iPhone as well as many other features. The challenge with the Fenix is that it is more of an outdoor watch with run features. Well, Garmin has addressed that with the release of the 920xt. Touted as a multisport watch that will be loved by triathletes this is a great watch for any endurance athlete. Up to 40 hours of battery life in UltraTrac mode, but utilizes the activity tracking features to read switchbacks and turns without putting it all in a straight line. It can then be up to 15% more accurate than the Fenix 2. At a similar price point as the Fenix, if you are a runner you will be better off with the 920xt.
4. Black Diamond
Always a staple in the outdoor gear arena Black Diamond makes great product! I use Black Diamond for all of my climbing gear and when I get a ski setup it most likely will be Black Diamond. When it comes to running though, they have two really great pieces that are a staple for many trail runners and mountaineers; headlamps and trekking poles. Black Diamond completely changed the game of trekking poles back when they released their Z poles. Well, now they have taken the ultralight carbon Z pole and made it adjustable. This will slightly decrease durability and add a little weight, but will certainly give some flexibility in use. I am most excited for this because it will mean one pole for running, mountaineering and snowshoeing. I am super anxious to get me a pair of these!
5. Picky Bars
A new company based out of Bend, OR they have a solid strategy to get into the market – make amazing product, grow grass-roots, have passionate staff, and be very social. They have succeeded at all of it thus far and are going to make some great inroads to the big bar companies really soon. I love the ingredients and the taste of their bars and am excited to use it out in the real world. On their packaging they feature images of users that have submitted their pictures via Instagram and were chosen to grace the packaging covers. Super excited to see these guys take off.
I have loved what these guys bring to the market for quite some time. They are taking the benefits of nut butters and infusing it with other real ingredients to make something that tastes great and performs really well on longer runs and adventures. They improved the taste and quality by making a finer texture on their latest run as well, much better and easier going down! I do wish they wouldn’t have dropped my favorite flavor, pineapple coconut, but I will forgive and continue to use their amazing product.
It seems that there are only so many things to do with a wool yarn, but these guys continue to amaze. They have overcome their couple year sock lull when it seemed you couldn’t get a pair to last to now outlasting the competition. They have even stepped it up again with their new PhD 2.0 and making a great fitting and more breathable sock. Love what they are doing. Also, not shown, but super exciting is a new technical running t that is very breathable and light as well as extremely durable by combining merino wool and polyester at the yarn level to create a thread strength that is unmatched by any other wool product! Impressed again!
8. Helly Hansen
Not a strong run presence here in the U.S. this European company has looked to gain market share over here and has made some great product to do it. Surprised that I do not see them in more stores, but hard to take a chance on another apparel brand when so many others are doing okay. I do love some of the great stuff that Helly Hansen makes. I have a great base layer that is a wool/polypropylene blend that I really love and then a half zip polypropylene/polyester blend that I wear a lot in the summer time. I am surprised not to see more half zip short sleeve tops out there. Well, they have now stepped up their running apparel game with some great reflective product. More of a mid-weight top these feature full reflective for winter running. Has a great feel to it and looks good too.
Again, TriggerPoint is at it with a new roller. Headed right into competition with companies like The Stick or Tiger Tail, TriggerPoint has come out with the Grid Stk. This bad boy features their grid like on many of their other products to really get down into the deep areas of the muscle. This will make a great portable feature. I love my Grid Roller and use it all of the time and having this would complete the collection for something to get to the focus areas and take when I travel. I do like the way this works over The Stick as it can point right into the affected muscle.
10. Nathan Sports
Nathan Sports is well known for what they do in hydration, but have pushed very hard into reflective over the past couple of years. Well, reflective hasn’t been enough as they want to make sure that you are not only seen, but can see while running in the early morning or late evening. They released a handheld flashlight earlier this year and now have stepped into the headlamp game. They are looking to release two headlamps in 2015. How are they going to compete? One, they have a pretty strong hold on run specialty so it gives buyers one less vendor to deal with, but two, is that their headlamp has some unique features. 2 of the key features are; 1. wave your hand in front of the lamp to change its brightness and 2. when headlights are oncoming it blinks to alert of your presence. These are some pretty cool features that make this a product worth getting.
All in all another great show. It was great to see so many people from the industry that I know and see what new products are approaching for 2015.