Innovating Athletic Shoes

Innovating Athletic ShoesThe athletic footwear market is maturing, so it will need sustained innovation to keep growing. “Performance footwear” emerged with the ancient Greeks and has since grown to a $50 billion global industry. Innovations such as vulcanized rubber, high tops, arch support, specialized functions, endorsements, and branding have kept the industry vibrant and growing, especially for the dominant three players: Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. Now it’s crunch time!

For this month’s LAB, we will use the corporate innovation method, S.I.T., to create new athletic shoe concepts. The method works by taking one of the five patterns (subtraction, task unification, division, multiplication, and attribute dependency) and applying it to an existing product or service. This morphs it into a “virtual product,” which is an abstract, ambiguous notion with no clear purpose. We then work backwards (Function Follows Form) to find new and useful benefits or markets for the virtual product.

Here are five innovations created by graduate students at the University of Cincinnati as part of their graded requirements in the innovation tools course.

  1. FEET HEAT: Insole of the shoe heats up and keeps the feet of the athlete warm even in extreme conditions. A battery in the sole provides power to a metal plate-heater. Shoe can be connected to regular power-outlets and recharged within minutes. (SIT TOOL: task unification – assigning an additional job to an existing resource)
  2. COLOR EX: The color of the fabric changes according to the physiological signs of the athlete (heart rate, lactic acid level). Different colors are designated to different levels of exertion/intensity that the athlete’s body has been enduring. Color EX Benefits: allows athletes to see whether they need to work harder or slower. Helps athletes train within a specific performance range. Also alerts coaches, trainers, and teammates as to how hard the athlete is really working. (SIT TOOL: attribute dependency – one feature of the product changes as another feature of the product or the environment changes)
  3. SMART SOLE: The surface of the sole adjusts to the type or conditions of the ground to improve performance. As ground conditions change (example: hard wood floor, gravel, wet cement, rocky terrain, grass), the thickness, stickiness, and durometer of the sole adjusts to optimal configurations for that surface. Benefit: allows athletes in sports that cross over different surfaces to perform better. (SIT TOOL: attribute dependency – one feature of the product changes as another feature of the product or the environment changes)
  4. Strength ShoeSTRENGTH PRO: Holes in the soles allow athletes to add various sized weights to the shoe. Weights can be exchanged or completely removed. Training device to increase stamina, speed, endurance, strength, and vertical leaps. Weight is easily removed so that the shoe can be used regularly (same shoe for practice and competition). Weights can be quickly increased or decreased based on workout purpose and individual needs. (SIT TOOL: task unification – assigning an additional job to an existing resource)
  5. INVERTED SPIKES: The spikes of the shoe are inverted into the bottom into the athletes foot. The spikes are softned and dulled so as to provide a message therapy as the athlete moves. Benefit: improves foot circulation, endurance, and comfort. (SIT TOOL: multiplication – copying a component and changing it in some way such as size, location, etc)

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Drew BoydDrew Boyd is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MS-Marketing program. Follow him at and at

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No Comments

  1. Philipp Reker on January 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    These are some nice ideas, but against popular belief there is no shortage of innovation in the footwear industry – at least not when it comes to the #1 challenger brand, Reebok: They are a global client of ours and with their toning shoes (Easytone, Traintone, Runtone) we have created a completely new category together. How? By being 100% consumer centric and developing an incredibly relevant benefit (toning while you walk) based on a simple insight (Women hate the gym). Checkout or

    Philipp Reker
    Hubble Innovations

  2. Goran Dulic on May 18, 2013 at 12:30 am

    I’m a Goran Dulic born in Serbia. I am currently living in Bangkok, Tailand. For a long time trying to conduct my idea that I dreamed of and so we looked perfectly that I do not want to give up on her. I think if my idea is implemented could be caused a revolution in the production and sale of sports and other footwear.
    Are you interested to join you and I go into the implementation of my ideas for shoes?
    With respect Goran Dulic

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