In the last few years, the number of cushioning materials used in footwear has exploded. As footwear brands continue to innovate with new foam compounds, molding techniques, and constructions, the consumer has access to more ways to optimize their cushioning experience. This blog discusses how to move away from a “one size fits all” model of cushioning and create cushioning that exceeds your customer’s expectations.
At Heeluxe we take a strategic approach to making a footwear brand’s cushioning better. The first part of this strategy includes targeted questions, such as:
- Who is the target customer for this footwear style or product range (age, genders, activity level, ideal purchase price, how often they’ll wear their shoes, how long they’ll keep their shoes)?
- What is the current expectation of cushioning from your current styles or your top competitors?
- How will we measure the footwear cushioning: machine vs on-body?
Not every customer is going to want the same type of cushioning, and every activity requires different types of cushioning. For instance, in court sports (basketball, volleyball, tennis, etc) our testing shows that customers prefer firmer cushioning and higher energy return materials, especially in the ball of the foot. Alternatively, in casual and lifestyle shoes customers prefer softer cushioning with lower energy return and are now more inclined to find thicker soles more comfortable. Key Takeaway: you need different types of cushioning to meet your customer’s needs.
How do you know if your new shoe’s cushioning is exactly what your new shoe provides? Testing. There are two main types of shoe testing that provide details on the level of cushioning your customer will experience:
- Machine Testing: This provides the fastest feedback on your sole performance. Machines like Heeluxe’s Hulk Impact Tester adhere to ASTM 1976F and provide details on how much Force your shoe dissipates (lower Force is softer cushioning) as well as Energy Return and a number of other parameters. Heeluxe’s unique analysis compares your midsole, insole, or foam plaque to 1000’s of other shoes in our database so you can quickly tell if your shoe is better for a pro athlete, a construction worker, or someone wearing them around the house. You’ll also see how your materials match up against your competition. Machine testing is a fast and inexpensive way to test a large number of cushioning materials and tune them to exceed your customer’s expectations.
- On Body Testing: This utilizes human testers to analyze what they feel when wearing the shoe. Our favorite way to test for this at Heeluxe is using our Comfort testing to analyze the underfoot pressure and compare it to the tester’s feedback. While Machine testing is great for analyzing the material, On Body testing takes into account other critical components of the shoe like the shape of the midsole and interaction of the insole, strobel, and midsole. On Body testing should always be done with testers that represent your ideal customer and having them do the activity the shoe is intended for.
By identifying the details of your customer and testing your cushioning materials you’re going to make better shoes. If you are interested in learning more about cushioning testing or would like to schedule a test for your shoes, we’d love to hear from you at [email protected].