As Lululemon marks the beginning of its third year in footwear, the Vancouver-based brand is doing so by introducing men’s footwear. Lululemon plans to release both the Beyondfeel running shoe and the lifestyle-focused Cityverse in the coming weeks.
Since launching its unique women’s running shoes in 2022, Simon Atkins, Lululmeon’s senior vice president of footwear, tells me that male consumers have been asking for the ability to match their Lululemon running gear with footwear, completing the look from head to toe. . It’s taken over four years to get to the point of giving fans what they want, but Lululemon is here now, offering the same perspective on men’s running as it does on women’s, but with a unique men’s twist.
“When we started 2022 with Blissfeel, we really started with the idea of Lululemon’s approach around the science of feeling. Fit, feel and feel. The unmet need we saw was that women were underserved. It started from a good point of view,” says Atkins. “We follow the same philosophy of sensory science and approach how we can create from the ground up using the same formula to really make sure we’re fine-tuning the details to uniquely tailor the footwear for him.”
This is alive within Beyondfeel. On the face, the women’s version looks like the men’s, but Atkins says seven distinct differences define the men’s shoe based on the biomechanics of the foot and the differences between men’s and women’s feet. “This philosophy allows us to make sure we tune our product uniquely,” he says.
It starts in the outsole, where men need more longitudinal stiffness than women, as seen in fewer flex grooves in the forefoot. Then, on the inside — the medial side — of the shoe, men need less support, so there’s not as much built-in as in the women’s version. “Being able to understand the biomechanical needs of foot morphology for sensation influences design,” says Atkins. “We get to different products.”
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Additional tweaks may be a little more subtle, such as less heel-to-toe drop for men, different dimensions in the sock liner for fit, changes to heel clip dimensions to match minor differences found during gait analysis, and repositioned the heel crash pad to match a male’s needs when moving from heel strike to toe down.
Typically, women have narrower feet with a shorter instep, longer arch, and greater forefoot variability. Men tend to have wider heels and flatter arches. This can be seen in the men’s Beyondfeel last — the tool that defines the inner shape of a shoe. It took Lululemon four years and six iterations to develop and refine the ideal fit and finish found in Beyondfeel to match the brand’s philosophy.
“Some are quite technical and some are more obvious,” Atkins says of the differences in men’s and women’s shoes. “It takes that feel philosophy and uniquely personalizes it. You don’t see that in the shoe industry.”
Continuing the success of its women’s line of running shoes, Lululemon features a proprietary foam chemistry in the midsole that Atkins says matches the best in the industry.
The addition of men’s Beyondfeel to the brand’s repertoire when it launches on March 19 allows Lululemon to complete the look from head to toe for today’s consumers. “In apparel, we’re a legitimate brand that works,” says Atkins. “Our market share speaks for itself.” With the clothing you call, the footwear comes next.
Head to toe starts with street running but extends beyond. Lululemon plans a March release of its street-ready Beyondfeel design and a May release of a trail-ready version. To give trail runners a shoe that matches their environment, the Beyondfeel Trail features a sturdier upper with protective elements around the toe, added heel stability and an outsole with increased durability.
“When we wanted to get into the men’s running market, we knew we wanted to offer an upgraded feel from Blissfeel to Beyondfeel and offer some options for street and street and then street and outdoor,” says Atkins.
This desire for a head-to-toe look doesn’t stop when consumers aren’t sweating. Lululemon is also launching the Cityverse shoe on February 13, a casual design that matches the brand’s wildly successful ABC pants.
The pants, Lululemon’s take on a five-pocket design that typifies the brand’s vision around fit, feel, raw material innovation and attention to detail, calls for a piece of footwear from the brand to sit alongside the look. Atkins knows that the men’s lifestyle footwear space is big and to stand out they had to do something beyond what already exists. That’s why Cityverse focuses on comfort.
“When you look at the general industry, the popular styles are heritage models, 20, 30, 40 years old, that use somewhat outdated or traditional innovations of the time,” says Atkins. “Style often comes at the expense of comfort.”
The cupsole outsole made for most casual products is a decades old concept. The Cityverse, then, “emphasizes feel, comfort and versatility.” Atkins says all you need to do is turn the shoe over and press on the visible inner midsole, something relatively unique in the casual footwear space, to feel the amount of cushioning included. He says the step-in comfort lasts all day and gives the Cityverse the ability to dress up or down, matching an ABC pant and other lifestyle-focused pieces from the brand’s men’s collection.
“It’s the same philosophy,” he says, “to not compromise on style while using innovation performance features to make it super comfortable. There is a point of difference there.”
Rounding out the men’s footwear offering, Lululemon will continue to embrace the Restfeel Slide, a men’s product launched in 2022, making it more available at retailers across North America. For women, a new Restfeel sandal will join the fray this spring.
Third year is no time for interruption. Atkins says that while they want to “absolutely celebrate” the new men’s running collection, they’re already thinking about what the footwear might mean for the brand. “We’re early stage,” he says, “a small part of the overall growth story at Lululemon. We’re thinking very long-term and we’re very excited about the view and the position we have and the reaction of the guests to want a head-to-toe look. We are very excited about the growth potential for men and women in all major divisions.”
The future of Lululmeon footwear began years ago when the brand began making specific applications and feel for both women and men. Beyondfeel and Cityverse editions bring consumers on the journey.