Higher, farther and faster

The sportswear hype is burgeoning and sneakers have been the top item in footwear for several seasons. Brands such as Nike and Adidas are riding the wave of success-in terms of style and image. But what’s up with Puma? A certain quietness has settled around the feline predator. That is supposed to change now.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word puma? What comes to mind for me is an image of my favorite bag-a fire-engine red handle, a big fat Puma logo in red letters on baby-blue nylon material. The only problem: That was back in 1997. Since then Adidas and Nike have set up camp in my shoe and clothing wardrobe. And if you have a look around the major fashion centers such as Copenhagen, Paris or New York, you quickly see what sneaker brands rule the streets-with Puma not among them.

What exactly is Puma’s problem? Not modern enough? Too set in its ways? Too retro? “What caused this was reinvestment in classic performance happening too late- the success of lifestyle was enjoyed for too long,” explains Matthias Baumer, general manager DACH Puma SE. Baumer is openly acknowledging that at the end of the day neither retailers nor consumers understood what the brand really stands for. “Now we would like to focus on our four categories teamsport, running, training and lifestyle and apply our resources in a targeted way to reach our target groups.

Despite this, Puma is still relevant in the fitness and training domain and has also not fallen off the radar in the lifestyle area. The Herzogenaurach-based company is working hard on making structural changes to the brand. In sportswear Puma is still one of the top three global players. By 2015 the whole collection (lifestyle and performance) is to be reduced by over 30%. “We want to be relevant and faster and ensure that sport inspiration regains traction in the Select area,” says Torsten Hochstetter, global creative director Puma SE, in charge of design and development for the sport lifestyle collection as well as for the sports performance collection since mid-2013.

The partnership with French streetwear label BWGH first started in late 2013 was very positively received at retailers internationally and will continue next season. “There were solid order levels for BWGH; we got very positive feedback, especially at Seek and Bright,” says Hochstetter. With Solange Knowles as creative inspiration, Puma designed a new edition of the cult Puma Disc Model last year. Almost every day Knowles posts pictures of herself in perfectly styled outfits from her favorite New York designer William Okpo on her Instagram profile “Saintrecords,” followed by a whopping half million viewers. The matching shoes? Pumas. The marketing value of a #Puma posts with on average more than 20,000 likes and around 500 comments? It is beyond any number for the company. And in the summer of 2015 Puma will make a splash with its forthcoming collaboration. With almost 30 pieces, the next collection has been designed in collaboration with Vashtie Kola, creative director of Icecream Girl, designer, video director and downtown sweetheart of the New York party scene. In addition to varsity and track jackets, mesh tank tops and t-shirts with 1990s styling, the versatile Brooklyn native has also given design impetus to the Puma Trinomic, Suede and Sky Sneaker models.

Further collaborations with McQ, House of Hackney, Mihara Yasuhiro and Alife will be presented for the 2015 summer season. Puma is convincing when it comes to the quality and authentic selection of the artists and designers it works with and its cleaner look with Puma Select distances itself from its loud lifestyle image. Hochstetter says, “We have a much clearer focus when it comes to the lifestyle segment. We have a strategic ‘pillar’ based on Trinomic-running – plus one based on basketball, and one on tennis. The collaborations are the salt in the soup and give the Select line-up that certain something.” Hochstetter adds that these three strategic design pillars are somewhat variable. Even a World Cup tournament can provide inspiration, for example in connection with tooling. Hochstetter sees the trends in the sneaker segment centering more on bulky, wider sneaker silhouettes: “The bulky silhouette shown by the Trinomic will be a trend. What is important is to get more depth into the material. However, if we streamline, we have to make sure the material is interesting. In lifestyle, for example, we use very high quality leather, resulting in a compelling shoe right from the basic construction.

Expressed in specialized fashion language that means: At the latest when John and Jane Doe discover their love for Stan Smith and Nike Roshe Run, it is time for Harry Hipster to look around for a new kind of sneaker, and that certainly won’t be all too long from now.

Running shoes advice

Heel of Fortune

Q: About 3 years ago I felt severe pain in my right heel and had to take some time off from running. Now the pain is back, and sometimes I can’t even walk normally. Why is this happening and what should I do about it?

A: When you first experienced severe heel pain, you probably had acute plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a membrane that connects the big toe and forefoot with the heel, forming the lining of the arch.

During a normal running gait, you push off from your big toes with most of your weight. This creates a strong pull against the attachment of the plantar fascia to the inside of the heel. Sometimes this area may become inflamed or tear. In most cases, those who suffer from plantar fasciitis will experience their worst pain during the first few steps of a run or when they step out of bed in the morning.

Normally the first episode occurs when you train too hard. Repeat injuries can occur with minor changes, such as when you wear different shoes, run on different surfaces, try new workouts, suffer more job fatigue, etc.

What can you do to ease the pain? First, try icing. Use an ice bucket and submerge the heel area for 10 minutes several times a day. The cold may ache, but it helps relieve pain better than any medication. Use ice after every run, whenever you feel severe pain, and in the evening. Use anti-inflammatory or pain-relief medication only if ice isn’t enough.

Next, do exercises to strengthen the muscles of your feet and lower legs. Walk barefoot on a carpet on your toes, then your heels, and then backward for a total of 10 minutes each day. Strengthen your Achilles and calves by doing three sets of 15 heel raises on a step. Allow your heel to drop below the level of the step.

When running, wear best shoes for plantar fasciitis and stay on soft surfaces. Sometimes a heel cup, heel lift, or arch insert makes running more comfortable. I prefer that my patients continue to run regularly, but only if they don’t limp after the first few steps. Usually runners with plantar fasciitis have to reduce their mileage by 50 percent. When you begin increasing your mileage, increase by only 10 percent a week. Recovery typically takes 3 to 4 months.

If these general treatment techniques don’t help, see a sports-medicine doctor. Other treatments range from medications and injections to night splints and orthotics.

–Bert Fields, M.D., the family practice and sports medicine fellowship director at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, N.C., and a former collegiate runner now in his 38th year of racing.

Asking for Support

Q: I’m a high-mileage runner with a medium arch. I currently wear a stability shoe, but I want to move toward ashoe with more cushioning. Do I have to worry about my arches falling if I buy a shoe with less arch support?

A: Arch support comes from a shoe that fits well and has a supportive insole. The midsole of a dual-density stabilityshoe can add support to your arch, but so can a cushioned shoe if you find one that has a similar midsole construction.

There are cushioned shoes on the market today that are built like stability shoes, but with softer single-density foam. If you do choose a cushioned shoe, you may need to add an insole support such as Superfeet or Powerstep. Another option: You may not need to change shoe styles if you simply add a cushioned insole to your current stability shoe. This will maintain the stability you need but also provide you with the cushioning you want. A knowledgeable salesperson at a specialty running store will be able to help you decide.

If you do switch to the new type of shoe, remember to rotate it with your current stability shoe for several weeks before going over to the new one entirely.

–Paul Carrozza, RUNNER’S WORLD’S footwear editor and owner of the RunTex specially running stores in Austin, Tex.

What’s Your Athletic Shoe IQ?

You’re cruising through the mall prepared to plunk down your hard-earned money for a pair of sneakers. You step into the sports superstore and stop dead in your tracks, dazzled by the sheer number of shoes lining the walls. After listening to the salesperson rattle off a list of features, you try on a few pairs. Thirty minutes later, you still can’t decide between the coolest cross-trainers and the hippest high-tops. Sound familiar?

Feet First

Running the mile and shooting hoops are hard enough on your knees and ankles. But doing them without the proper shoes can be a real health hazard.

Your feet work hard during sports. The movements you make put a lot of stress on your muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. Shoes that don’t fit properly or that don’t provide enough support can lead to injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures. That’s especially true for runners. When you run, your body absorbs up to four times your body weight with every step. The right shoes protect not only your feet but your ankles, shins, knees, and back from injury by absorbing impact and controlling unwanted movement. When shopping for shoes, consider your feet, your activity, and the surface you’re doing it on. Your shoes should match all three.

Generally, people with flat feet need shoes with less cushioning than people with average feet. Those with high arches need shoes with more shock absorption. The shape of the shoe should also match your foot type. To determine what type of feet you have, look at your wet footprint after a shower. If you can see the whole bottom of your foot, you have flat feet and should look for shoes with a straight shape. If you see only parts of your forefoot and heel with a thin line between them, you have high-arched feet and should look for shoes with a curved shape. Other feet are in-between.

The most important factor to keep in mind when choosing athletic shoes is what you’ll be using them for. No one brand fits all feet or is best for all types of activities. If you play basketball or do aerobics, for example, you need shoes that keep your ankles stable during side-to-side movements. On the other hand, if you run or hike, you need shoes that. are lightweight and have plenty of cushioning. Multipurpose shoes are fine for things such as lifting weights or working out in the gym. But if you participate in a sport three or more times a week, you need a sport-specific shoe. “The biggest mistake young people make when they start a new sport or exercise program is using shoes that are not designed for that activity,” says Greg Catalano, D.P.M., of the North Bridge Podiatry Group in Concord, Massachusetts. “Running shoes are not designed for motion other than straight ahead. If you’re doing a sport that’s outdoors and that requires a lot of cutting and change of direction, you need a cleated shoe.”

If the Shoe Fits …

Whatever your sport, fit and comfort are key. Even the best shoes are useless if they give you blisters after the first day. Look for a shoe that’s roomy at the toe and snug at the heel to keep your foot from slipping, especially during sports that involve a lot of quick turns, such as soccer or lacrosse. Shoes should also be flexible. To ensure a good fit, wear the socks you normally wear when exercising, and shop at the end of the day or after a workout, when your feet are their largest. Athletic shoes that are too tight in the store won’t stretch.

Female athletes should keep in mind that girls’ feet are different from guys’. “Women tend to have a narrower heel and a wider forefoot,” says Dr. Catalano. “Don’t buy a shoe that’s designed for boys. Be sure they are sized for women.” He also recommends going to a specialty store staffed by people who know your sport. “The people in shoe megastores aren’t necessarily experts,” he says.

Replace your old shoes regularly. Most shoes lose their cushioning after three to six months of regular use. If the tread is gone or your shoes start leaning to one side, you know it’s time for a new pair. “Whatever you do, be sport-specific and, if possible, specific to your foot structure,” says Dr. Catalano. “If you’re running on trails instead of the track, look for running shoes that are geared especially to trail running. They are sturdier and more supportive than road running shoes. They’re also heavier. Generally, the lighter the shoe, the less supportive.

Think function, not fashion. Shoes with open heels, zippers instead of laces, or no arch support are accidents waiting to happen, says Dr. Catalano. “They’re not designed for athletic performance.”

Buying the right shoes and replacing them regularly will help you avoid injuries.

What’s Your Athletic shoes should have different weights, widths, soles, and cushioning, depending on what sport you use them for. Here’s a brief rundown of shoe requirements for some different activities:

  • Running: heel and forefoot cushioning, lightweight, flexible front selection section, breathable upper mesh, rough
  • Walking: cushioning under ball of the foot, lightweight, rounded sole, flexible front section
  • Basketball: high-tops for stability during jumps and landings, flat soles for quick stops and snap moves
  • Tennis: firm heel, roomy toe area, herringbone sole design, flexibility
  • Aerobics: lightweight, shock absorption for ball of the foot, side-to-side support, flexibility, smooth tread
  • Cross-training: less flexible than running shoes, stable enough for multi-directional movements

Globus, Sheila