Kate & Kevin & Jen & CK chat about the 997.
Training shoes are the Swiss Army Knives of footwear. They have to be. They need to do every sport, every workout activity you do with just the right balance of on-call performance and sock-like minimalism.
We sat down with New Balance Designer for Performance Tennis and Training Kate Stanchak, Product Manager for Performance Tennis and Training Kevin FitzPatrick, and PR rep Jennifer Keddy to get the inside design story behind the brand new 997 training shoe, its fresh ProBank and Quix technologies, and plans NB has for this training shoe blueprint.
CounterKicks: What was the motivation for creating the 997 trainer?
Kate Stanchak: We had wanted to design the shoe that focused on that aggressive high school/college athlete and their training. We set out going to some training camps to watch athletes train and one thing we found is that when they’re training and their shoes slipped or they lose their grip on the ground, they start to lose confidence and they cut back, they don’t give it their full effort. So the whole concept for the shoe came from wanting to provide more confidence to that athlete and give them something that they know they can be secure in and cut in really hard and still be reliable. The design inspiration came from the race track and race cars that go around the track and change directions. There’s banks to create better traction so they don’t go flying off the race track. That was the idea behind this technology which we’re calling ProBank. The forefoot lateral side is a harder density and it forms the wedge shape under your foot. The softer medial side will compress more so as you’re cutting you’re going to land your medial side first and that compresses and creates that wedge shape under your foot, similar to how race tracks as banked which gives you a solid surface to push off of. We’ve also wrapped up the harder density foam on the lateral side so your foot is sitting a little bit lower on the midsole and it also prevents your foot from rolling over the side of the shoe and blowing out. That was really the design inspiration, giving them confidence and pulling from the race track idea. I should mention that Brett Golliff actually worked on this project when he was at New Balance. It’d be interesting hearing his perspective as well.
CK: Take us through your personal design process, how you approach a shoe project, and how you take those ideas of problem solving and mesh them with aesthetics.
Stanchak: For me the biggest thing is the story behind the shoe. So we came up with the idea of the wedge. We really wanted something that could visually convey that. We were looking at shapes and lines that draw from the race track that has a lot of straight lines, angular surfaces. That was the visual language we wanted to convey. We went through a lot of testing on this shoe, built some rough prototypes to test it out and with different durometers, and figured out what the best option for that is. That kind of informed the upper and how we were going to design that around the foot, to lock the foot into place, and really worked with the midsole. So having all those lines come together was really based on the story and functionality behind the shoe.