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Words by Simon Freeman,
first published in Like The Wind magazine.
From artists to novelists, architects to software developers – and perhaps most especially with musicians – there is a persistent fear: the sophomore slump, the difficult second album. The idea that it is really hard to follow up on great initial success.
As with many myths, while there might be some truth in it, it’s definitely not always the case. Nevertheless, when a first version of something is received with rapture, the pressure is on with the second iteration.
The launch of the Endorphin Collection in 2020 was a big moment for Saucony and the team behind the three shoes that made up the range. The Endorphin Pro, designed for race day speed, sold out everywhere in a matter of hours. The Endorphin Speed and Endorphin Shift followed suit. Here was an exceptional range of shoes for all runners, no matter what they demanded – the Pro was all about performance, the Speed offered a snappy feel that could transition from fast workout to a race and the Shift was the go-to shoe for everyday workouts.
So how do you follow that success? Chad Holt, Saucony Product Line Manager for the Endorphin Collection, and Ted FitzPatrick, Saucony’s Senior Product Management Director, explain how they and their colleagues avoided falling foul of the sophomore slump to produce an even better range of shoes with the new Endorphin Collection. The first thing you need to know is that Chad and Ted – like so many of their colleagues at Saucony – are runners through and through. For Chad, running started with his dad when they raced local 5km events together, eventually leading Chad to race for Clemson College. Likewise, Ted started young, with middle school cross-country. He then competed at college and eventually raced over 5,000m in the 1996 USA Olympic Trials.
Being runners, Ted, Chad and their colleagues knew that they had their work cut out to improve on the first Endorphin Collection. As Chad acknowledges: “It’s most difficult to update a product that is successful; when you have a whole Collection that exceeds expectations, it’s even harder.”
“With the updated Endorphin
Collection, our goal was to not
mess up a good thing but refine
the areas where we knew we could
fine-tune the shoe to enhance fit,
feel, and distraction-free comfort.”
Ted agrees. “With the updated Endorphin Collection, our goal was to not up a good thing,” he says, “but refine the areas where we knew we could fine-tune the shoe to enhance fit, feel, and distraction-free comfort.”
This tends to be the way of the runner. Every great run, every PR or even race win is followed up with a question: how can I get better? For Chad, there were a few areas that he and his colleagues thought could be improved.
“For the Endorphin Speed 2, Pro 2 and Shift 2 we really focused on the last 10%,” he says. “Obsessing over the fit and meticulously crafting the finer details that can elevate a product. All while creating a bold visual that inspires and excites the runner.”
Additionally, Saucony has added to the Endorphin Collection for runners who love to get off the asphalt. The Endorphin Trail is designed specifically for runners hitting the dirt who demand the fast and dynamic ride that they are accustomed to in their road shoes, plus all the grip and protection they require for the trail.
The Endorphin Trail is
designed specifically for
runners hitting the dirt...
So how did the people at Saucony go about improving on something so good? As is always the case at Saucony, runners were at the heart of the process, as Ted explains:
“Developing the new range was truly a team effort. We combed through consumer reviews and piles of test reports to understand what problems we needed to solve. Our athlete roster shared feedback. And we tapped into Boston area runners who had competed in the 2020 USA Olympic Marathon trials. These runners were especially insightful.”
Jessie Petersen, Saucony’s Product Line Manager, emphasises the role that real runners played in refining the Endorphin Collection.
“The 2021 Endorphin Collection is all about speed and efficiency,” she says. “We attack these updates on two fronts: first, how does the customer feel about the product? We spent hours upon hours listening to runners including reviews, bloggers, retailers, focus groups, local run clubs, our professional athletes, you name it. Then secondly we run the full gambit of testing in our Human Performance And Innovation Lab to make sure the product is living up to the intent.”
Chad backs this up: “Everything at Saucony is done as part of a team and there is no exception here. From design, engineering, development and the lab, product creation it is a collective effort. We did not stop our testing with the launch of the first Endorphin Collection, but rather doubled down. The feedback from elite runners, wear testers, reviewers, retailers and consumers was gathered and distilled into key elements that would provide insight into Endorphin 2021 and beyond.”
Several essential parts of the updated Endorphin Collection build on and enhance what came
before, including the exceptionally lightweight PWRRUN PB™ cushioning, the brand’s signature SPEEDROLL™ Technology and FORMFIT™ upper which hugs the foot in 3D comfort. These combine with enhanced heel support and anti-slip laces which keep the foot secure at any speed.
Most excitingly for the team at Saucony, the response to the new Endorphin Collection has been exactly what they were hoping for, as Ted points out:
“The range is all about maximising performance for runners of all abilities and creating a feel that is unparalleled. I love talking to runners who tell me they got a Pro, Speed or Shift and were shocked by how it made their runs feel easier or faster and got them up on their toes. This collection is unique because beyond the performance merits of the shoes, it has truly brought joy and wonder to runners. That is the ultimate success story for a product person like myself.”
How do the people behind the updated Endorphin Collection feel while wearing them? For Chad, the words that spring to mind are “fast and fun”.
“The Endorphin Speed is my favourite running shoe of all time!” says Chad. “It checks the boxes for everything I’ve ever wanted in a shoe: lightweight, cushioned, responsive, durable and looks incredible. I look at my choice of running shoes – and there’s a lot – and I keep coming back the Speed because the run experience is like no other.”
“It checks the boxes for everything
I’ve ever wanted in a shoe:
lightweight, cushioned, responsive,
durable and looks incredible. I look
at my choice of running shoes –
and there’s a lot – and I keep
coming back to the Speed...”
For Ted, the feelings are similar. “The Speed is my go-to shoe,” he says. “It makes me feel fast and reminds me of my youth. The fountain of youth in a running shoe is a great thing. It makes me excited to go for a run, which is a great motivational tool.” Ultimately, though, the focus is always on Saucony’s customers – runners, wherever they are. Ted, Chad and their colleagues have a burning desire to make shoes that deliver performance, comfort and fun. As Ted says: “As much as the updated Endorphin Collection was designed to improve efficiency and promote faster running and a faster feel, I hope consumers get that same feeling I get – a shoe that makes running fun and makes you want to lace them up and get out the door.”
Nowadays Chad and Ted both run for joy, health and camaraderie (as Ted says, when he meets up with teammates from his college days, “the older we get, the faster we were”).
It is that last point that has really informed the development of the new Endorphin Collection – inspiring and exciting the runner. Because in the case of Saucony, the team is made up of runners building products for runners. That is how and why with the 2021 Endorphin Collection, the brand absolutely avoided the sophomore slump – they have produced a range that actually exceeds everything that runners loved the first time around. And that is something pretty special.