NOBULL Enters Performance Running As Footwear Options Expand

Nobull continues to race right past its reputation as a CrossFit footwear maker. The latest effort has the 2015-founded brand adding performance running to its footwear mix, launching the Runner+ to bring Nobull beyond casual running into a serious running discussion.

“We’ve dipped our toe in the running space already but wanted to take another leap and another step forward as a brand and build a product more suitable for performance runners looking for a race shoe or a really fast training shoe,” says Mike Kirtley, vice president of footwear design. “We really took it up a notch with a more purely focused shoe.”

The Runner+, debuting Feb. 11, does that with the typical stripped-down design and construction seen from the slate of Nobull products already growing in popularity across fitness, casual running, cycling and trail running. The high stack Runner+ includes a Pebax midsole, a nylon plate for energy return and a one-piece, no-seem engineered mesh upper.

“We kept our Nobull philosophy at the core,” Kirtley says. “There is nothing added, no gimmicks, it is stripped back. We focused on the core components packaged together.”

Mark Balint, Nobull vice president of footwear, says the evolution into performance running happened organically and feels like a “natural progression” for the company. Founded by Reebok alums Marcus Wilson and Michael Schaeffer in Boston in 2015 with a focus on the functional fitness space, the direct-to-consumer company has continued its growth with a fitness focus. Over 300 NFL athletes train in Nobull, even though the brand doesn’t have a cleat, and athletes across every major sport, from tennis to basketball and the Olympics to the NHL (a large chunk of Boston Bruins train in the hometown product) compliment the more than a dozen sponsored CrossFit athletes. Nobull has NFL players Will Grier and Mac Jones signed, along with Olympic swimmer Caeleb Dressel.

“Nobull is growing like crazy and expanding and getting on more people’s radar,” Balint says. “It feels like an organic natural step to build a super-performance running shoe.”

A new research and development lab in Vermont, what the brand is calling a creative incubator space to push forward new product concepts and experimental ideas, helped move the brand toward the Runner+. Nobull opted for a high stack height—31mm for a men’s size 10.5—to start the product line, serving as a jumping off point to learn from as the brand experiments with other running silhouettes. It also differentiates the Runner+ from other Nobull casual running product.

“We started with that height really because we are wanting to be a comfortable shoe,” Kirtley says. The midsole uses an industry leading Pebax material, Kirtley says, with a nylon plate fully embedded to offer an “incredibly responsive and fast feeling” stable ride.

“These are technologies, not gimmicks,” Kirtley says. “They are there to help deliver the end performance feel we believe the runners are working for. The plate is buried inside the midsole. You don’t see it, there is no singing and dancing about it, it is just there to do its job. While (the shoe) is complex and has some high-technology components, it is packaged in a way that is aggressively simple.”

With the one-piece upper like other Nobull product, the simple design was meant to cut out excess weight—there is padding in the collar area—while still providing lockdown. The outsole design features a web pattern with no stress points to strip out weight while removing the risk of delamination and providing durability.

“Our core ethos and branding is: No gimmicks,” Balint says. “Anytime we have these new products on the table, designing simple stuff is not simple.”

While Nobull expects to, at least for now, remain a direct-to-consumer brand, having a performance runner does open new opportunities to target and talk to a fresh consumer, especially as Nobull looks to expand brand spaces beyond its current Miami location. A performance runner also allows Nobull to get more involved from a participation standpoint in the running community.

“It does help that this is new space for us, new territory,” Kirtley says. “I think that is really exciting for us to explore the boundaries of the product out there.”

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