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Rick Vosper: Borrowing a stupid idea from runners

Published June 17, 2013

You know how when you get back from a long bike ride and get cleaned up and slip into your flip-flops, your feet just feel so darned...good?

Of course you do. And so do our friends in the running and hiking communities. That's because, like cycling, those activities cyclically smoosh the human foot – your foot, to be precise – into unnatural and highly stressed positions. The more cyclage (or cycling), the more smooshage (or smooshing).

Slipping into a more comfortable pair of shoes afterwards lets everything realign footwise, releasing a nice little dopamine chaser to follow that endorphin cocktail you earned with your workout. So picture some blissed-out running shoe product manager a few years back, looking down fondly at his or her battered, flip-flop-clad feet after a hard session and saying, Dammit, Jim, there has to be a buck in these things someplace.

And thus the Recovery Shoe category was born. You want to know more about it, here's a thoughtful article on that very topic by a woman named Cara Griffin in Footwear Insight magazine (yes, there really is such a thing). More recently, our friends in the walking shoe industry seem to think there's a buck in it too, according to this article from the folks at SNews, newsletter for the outdoor/fitness markets.

And if it's good enough for the hiking folks to rip off from the running market, it ought to be good enough for us cycling folks to rip it off from the both of them. So what I want to know is, which bike industry footwear supplier will be first to market?

After all, there's already a(n admittedly arcane) category called Podios, which as insiders know, are short-term shoes originally designed for race winners to wear atop the podium. Since cycling shoes are notoriously difficult to walk in, and since nothing makes your race winner look worse than falling on his culattone in front of all his sponsors, Sidi founder Dino Signori (and doubtlessly others) pulled standard racing shoes off the line before the cleats and other hardware were put on, grafted a rubber outsoles to the bottoms, and — Ecco! — the Podio was born.

The results weren't especially comfortable, but they looked pretty good and just about any alternative is a heck of a lot easier to walk around in than the real cleated thing ... as every cyclist who's ever tried to walk into a coffee shop can personally attest.

So why didn't some smart person from Sidi (or Giro or Specialized or Shimano or Bontrager, for that matter) think of making Podios, you know, actually feel comfortable years ago? Then they could sell the living dog biscuits out of 'em — to the same fanatics who cheerfully spend $400 for a pair of road shoes and $150 for a wool sweater with their favorite brand embroidered across the chest—and retire, rich and adored, to live happily ever after?

Because, dammit Jim, that's just not the way we do things in the bike business, that's why.

But what we are really good at is finding a bandwagon that's only a couple years old and looks like it might still have some life in it, and hopping aboard. Which means that, as an industry, we're right on schedule for this one.

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