You slip your foot into a brand-new Brooks shoe and instantly feel like clouds are hugging your foot from every angle- a soft platform runs from heel to toe while a plush collar cradles your ankle and a supple upper wraps over your toes. Your shoe feels and runs amazingly, but what’s behind those super soft materials and how did Brooks choose them?
At Brooks, we select the material for every part of the shoe with intention because we know the important role materials play in making your run a good one. We spend years researching and selecting materials and, in the case of a midsole material like DNA AMP, we spend 8 years developing it!
We asked Brooks Footwear Product Line Manager Jena Winger about how we select our shoe materials and why some work better than others depending on the shoe. Here’s what she had to say.
How do we choose shoe materials?
First and foremost, we choose materials that will deliver the best fit, feel and ride for runners. From midsole innovations like DNA AMP to innovative support systems like GuideRails and rethinking upper construction with FitKnit, we choose and combine materials to provide the best running experience possible. We also look at our commitments to sustainability when we choose materials. For example, 48 percent of our footwear (by weight) is made from recycled or biodegradable materials. We’ve also increased the efficiency of our footwear uppers 3 percent since 2013, which means we have less material waste during assembly. The majority (72 percent) of our adhesives in footwear are water-based, and we plan to use 100 percent water-based adhesives by 2020. Learn more about our Running Responsibly program here. Another consideration we take into account is style. We know that materials can provide drastically different looks- take a flat knit and an air mesh as an example. We want to make sure that we deliver products that not only feel good, but look good, too!
Knits, meshes, wovens. What’s the difference?!
On our shoe uppers, we use a variety of fabrics to keep your foot snug in the shoe, supported, and to provide for breathability. Fabrics can be bucketed into two general camps: knits or wovens. Knits are made from one single yarn looped to produce the fabric while wovens are made of multiple, crisscrossing yarns. Each has its own benefits. Within knits, there are two broad classifications: Warp knits are the mesh seen most often on performance running shoes. The second group, called weft knits, are increasingly used on performance running styles. You can see weft knits on the Revel 2, which is a flat knit. This, along with the circular knit found on the Levitate 2 and Bedlam, are examples of weft knit executions. A great example of a woven upper can be found on the Hyperion and in our WovenAir upper on our racing spikes, part of our Speed experience.
What materials do we use today?
We select from dozens of materials to build a single shoe! The three main components of the shoe are the outsole, midsole and the upper. But each one of those can be made of multiple materials. For example, the Ricochet uses both BioMoGo DNA and DNA AMP to deliver a balanced, springy ride. A few technologies we’re excited about right now are FitKnit—our premium knit upper construction specifically designed to deliver a more sock-like fit—which is used in our Energize experience, and TrailTack, our proprietary sticky rubber compound that provides outstanding traction even out wet surfaces. We use that on the Caldera 3 (see the men’s Caldera 3 here and the women’s Caldera 3 here).
Speaking of shoe materials, mine stink! What’s the best way to clean shoes and prevent odor?
A well-worn pair of running shoes may not smell as great as they feel and look. Most times, odor is a result of sweat entering and staying in the materials around your foot- the upper and the sock liner under your foot. You can help reduce shoe odor by investing in technical running socks that work with the shoe materials and will help move sweat away from your foot efficiently. You can also try drying your shoes quickly after a run by removing the insoles to air dry or inserting old newspaper into them to soak up moisture and then removing the paper. If you choose to wash your shoes, we recommend hand washing with a gentle detergent and letting your shoes air dry.
Are any of your materials vegan?
Yes, actually almost all of them are! The only Brooks Running shoes that are not vegan are our walking shoes, the Addiction Walker. Other than that, every Brooks Running shoe is considered vegan. Even on some of our shoes that have leather-like materials like the Levitate 2 LE and Ricochet 2 LE, we use synthetic materials.
Curious about which Brooks shoe is right for you? Check out the Brooks Shoe Finder to find a pair just for you.