Recently The North Face released Mountain Athletics, its activewear range, with the tagline “I train for ___”.
The range is a call to action in itself, but becomes even more powerful when paired with an app-based training program and training classes run by North Face stores as part of the Mountain Athletics campaign. The Regent’s Street store, for example, organizes bodyweight workouts in Regent’s Park, and monthly trail runs out of the city under the hashtag #neverstoplondon. This whole campaign is about empowering the consumer to become a better version of him or herself, and in a market saturated with beach bodies and the fight for aesthetics, it’s refreshing to see that utility is being prioritized over looks. Essentially the message is: training isn’t just preparation for a certain look, but a complement to a specific goal, such as an ultra marathon, mountaineering expedition or cross-country ski race. The North Face even organises and sponsors such events.
This stands in stark contrast to Adidas’ launch of the Ultra Boost range; a line of shoes designed specifically with women in mind. The London launch took place in Victoria Park, with a track lit up by real-time footprints from customers in their flagship store. The whole thing seemed a bit gimmicky, and there’s the rub. When pressed on the specific design of the running shoe, such as “What kind of running is this designed for” and “How many miles would these shoes withstand”, it turns out that the Ultra Boost was designed for short distances- under 10k, or even taking a leisurely stroll to the juice bar after a yoga class. It was not specifically designed by running, and it signalled “this big, fundamental shift away from the serious, competitive aspect to much more of a social aspect dominated by female runners,” according to Adidas spokespeople.
Now that’s not the most empowering statement I’ve ever heard- a running shoe that isn’t really designed for running, because women do not take the sport as seriously as their male counterparts. Whilst I don’t deny that there are many women (and men) for whom running is a fun, social and occasional sport, it comes down to the assumption that the participation of women somehow dilutes a sport. This is an assertion female athletes, both professional and non, have been fighting for years.
When you take into account the statement that Adidas is making with the launch of this shoe, contrasted with that of the North Face, I have no doubt in my mind which brand I would choose to buy.