At the age of 16 I was running with my brother who was in college. We talked often about our running shoes. He stated during that very cold run that he one day wanted to work for Nike. I thought that was a fairly good idea so I started thinking the same thing. I’ve gone way beyond that crazy idea and although I never did work for Nike.
I Did Get to Work With Nike
One day I was standing on stage at the Tiger Woods Theater on the Nike Campus. The President of Nike had just welcomed the world wide development team to the headquarters. For the next 45 minutes or so I stood on the stage explaining to Nike where running shoes are today, where they are going and where Nike specifically was missing out. Let me tell you as I stood there I thought of that cold run with my brother with a little smile on my face.
A Life of Runners and Running Shoes
I started my running shoe career just after I did my first Ironman. It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was riding back from the pool with one of the local pro athletes. He said “Jeweller, why aren’t you working right now”. I had quit my job the week before and told him so. He asked if I wanted a job selling running shoes. I did and got that job. It was at a general sporting goods store and over the next 4 years we turned it into a premier running store that sold Levi’s and free weights.
Road Runner Sports
In 1995 I joined Road Runner Sports. 12 years at that company really shaped how I think about running and running shoes. The jobs I did were not really important in the entire scheme of things. I started as product manager of non-running shoes and worked my way up to running shoes then to Director of all merchandise to finally simply Director of Running. More important are the things I got to do in those jobs.
- I learned how to do great business without Nike. For the first 7 years we didn’t have Nike.
- The internet became the thing. The owner of the company first said “People won’t buy shoes through their computer”. He made us build an informational website first. That was the best thing at the time for sure. There we created the first Shoe Dog app. There have been so many copies of that original Shoe Dog we should have licensed the darn thing. Remember this is prior to 2000 when we built it.
- We had this huge buying club called the Run America Club. For a few years we put out a magazine to the club. The editor of the magazine came to be one day and said “We want you to have a shoe column in the magazine. It will be a Q&A and we’re going to call you Super Dave. I was not excited about the name but I said “o.k.” They thought people would ask about running shoes and that I would answer the questions. They did ask about shoes but they asked more about running then shoes. They mostly asked about injuries and any other question you can think of about running. In fact over the years we did this the customer service department answered most of the running shoe questions and I got to research and then answer the running questions. I still have all those questions. There are close to 10,000 of them.
After Road Runner Sports I took a chance and moved to Germany to work for Adidas. What a great experience that was. Adidas has some amazingly cool history. Can I tell you now that I held in my hands the shoes Jesse Owens ran in. Wow! Adidas taught me the global running shoe business. Although the USA is the center for all things running shoes it’s not the only player. I got to dream up product at Adidas. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t. I was the guy who killed the Supernova Classic.
I got the opportunity to move back to San Diego to take all of my knowledge from the years at RRS and the years at Adidas and apply it to a start up running shoe brand, Zoot Sports. Going from Adidas where resources were never a question to Zoot was both challenging and rewarding. As a start up there is no baggage. We got to innovate running shoes in ways at the time the big brands wouldn’t do. We were the first to apply apparel cut and sew manufacturing to a running shoe. In fact the material we used came from an apparel supplier not a footwear supplier. We built one of the first running shoes without laces. We build the first road running or racing shoes with the Boa lacing system. We had a great deal of fun doing that. The most fun part of that job was creating products around World Champions. Build a shoe for one athlete for one race and you will feel the pressure and the excitement of the accomplishment.
Running Shoe Insight
Today I still work in running shoes. I have a marketing research company that provides needed research to the running shoe brands. It’s another start up situation where the resources are slim but the work is both challenging and very rewarding and I’m not talking money here. To provide to the running industry information they’ve never had before is very rewarding. I’ve probably done research on events you’ve run in