Brands should be more willing admit when changes are needed
A “Running Change” is an update to a product that is already available for sale on the marketplace without changing the style or the SKU. It’s basically an update made to product over the lifecycle of that product. Sometimes this might include something like a facelift, as we see with cars, and other times its more “under the hood” type changes. Running change is a term that’s mostly used by Nike but its handy for what I’m going to talk about.
A good and well-known example of a running change is the difference between the launch colourway of the adidas Ace 17+ Purecontrol and the colours that followed. The initial black/red launch colourway of these Aces did not have reinforcement on the top part of the knit which made the lockdown suffer. People quickly noticed that the pros did have an additional reinforcement on their boots, which rightfully upset many people. The subsequent colourways of the Ace 17+ Purecontrols did have this extra reinforcement on them which made people happy. Football boots are generally made about 5-6 months in advance so it’s clear they saw this was going to be an issue with the launch and changed it ahead of time. Edit: After posting this article JayC from BootHype pointed out that adidas made a whole new upper construction for the Ace 17+. He rightly points out that the turfs and indoors had the “proper upper” on them from launch but the FGs didn’t and adidas were being “maliciously disingenuous”. And after talking to him more, he’s got a point!
So who made the decision to let that initial colourway still be launched without the reinforcement?
Another very well-renowned (to the general public at least) example of a running change is Nike’s upgrade to the Hypervenom Phantom 2s. The initial upper that was launched was panned by a lot of people and shocked everyone with the stiffness of the boot. It seemed as if Nike made the opposite of the original Hypervenoms. It’s understandable that Nike wanted to make the product more durable, but the messed this one up. To their credit, they admitted they messed up and 6 months later (the above example tells you why it took so long) we finally got a boot that was somewhat more like the original Hypervenoms.
A running change doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing though. Hummel Japan recently provided a great example of a running change done right. Hummel Japan’s Vorart series was decently received when it first released in 2017. It had a nice kangaroo leather forefoot with a well-structured heel and soleplate to provide ample support. In the last year Hummel introduced a running change to the Vorart series by changing the midsole from what they had been using to a full KaRVO plate. KaRVO is a material that allows for a little bit more stiffness and springback. It’s made of fibre-reinforced thermoplastic which gives it similar properties to carbon fibre. It’s not on the same level as carbon fibre, but it’s a great material. With this running change, Hummel made the Vorart more of an eye-catching boot because now people in the market here not only see it as a boot to get if you’re wanting support but also a boot that gives you a bit of spring in your step, much like a speed boot.
Another good recent example of a great running change is Umbro Japan’s Accerartor. The most recent colourway launch included a subtle, but somewhat significant change. Umbro Japan partnered with BMZ (a company that makes athletic insoles and is popular in Japan and Korea) and switched out the insole they had been using to a BMZ grip insole. Aside from the addition of grip to the insole, BMZ’s insoles are well-known here for the support they provide to your feet. The makes the Umbro Accerartor that much more attractive as a comfort boot option and packs the boot with even more tech, as JayC of BootHype notes in his review of one of the older colourways.
It’d be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the fact that running changes mostly start because of product quality issues. Nike, adidas and Puma have all done this down the years. Mizuno recently “had” an issue with their boots last year in which the stitching supposedly was too weak on some of the Rebula 3s and some of the Morelia Neo II Betas (this didn’t effect the regular Morelia Neos). Though I didn’t hear of anyone actually having any issues with their boots, Mizuno offered to take back and replace the boots of anybody who was worried about the issue. Mizuno’s running change was to change how the boots were stitched together to make them stronger. What’s impressive is that Mizuno managed to make the change to the some of the boots released with the first 3 colourways and by the time the Navy colour of the Rebula 3s was launched the problem was fixed and Mizuno managed to replace everyone’s boots within two months of their return. They also had plenty of time to fix the blackout version of the Morelia Neo II Beta before it released. Part of this down to Mizuno being quick to see quality control issues and the other part is down to the fact that Mizuno’s made in Japan product is only made 3 months before launch which allows them to make last minute adjustments.
Anyways the moral of all of this is that brands should be less afraid to make big changes without tossing everything out of the window. Puma especially could have used this is then past year by making changes without changing the name of them boot and running massive and pointless advertising campaigns for each no boot. If brands become more willing to embrace running changes it’s likely that we might see less product being constantly released on the market and that brands can make their boots change for the better without throwing everything into chaos with a new boot. Of course, its just as likely the opposite would happen.
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