As Lululemon marks the beginning of year three in the footwear space, the Vancouver-based brand does so by introducing men’s footwear. Lululemon plans launches of both the Beyondfeel performance running shoe and lifestyle focused Cityverse in the coming weeks.
Since launching with the women’s only running shoes in 2022, Simon Atkins, Lululmeon senior vice president footwear, tells me male consumers have been asking for the ability to match their Luluelmon running gear with footwear, completing the head-to-toe look. Getting to the point of giving the fans what they want has taken over four years, but Lululemon is now there, offering up the same perspective in men’s running as they did in women’s, but with a unique-to-men twist.
“When we launched in 2022 with the Blissfeel, we really started with the concept of the Lululemon approach around the science of feel. Fit, feel and sensation. The unmet need we saw was women are being underserved. It started from a fit point of view,” Atkins says. “We are taking that same philosophy of the science of feel and approaching how we can create from the ground up using the same formula to really make sure we seat the details to uniquely tune footwear for him.”
That comes vivid within the Beyondfeel. On the face, the women’s version looks similar to the men’s, but Atkins says seven distinct differences define the men’s shoe based on the biomechanical foot morphology and the differences between male and female feet. “That philosophy allows us to make sure we tune our product uniquely,” he says.
It starts on the outsole, where men need more longitudinal stiffness than women, seen in fewer flex grooves in the forefoot. Then, on the inside—medial side—of the shoe men need less support, so there isn’t as much built in as in the women’s version. “Being able to understand the biomechanical foot morphology needs for the sense of feel affects design,” Atkins says. “We arrive at different products.”
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Additional tweaks may come a bit more hidden, such as less heel-to-toe drop for men, different dimensions in the sock liner to accommodate fit, changes to the dimensions of the heel clips to match the micro differences found during gait analysis and a repositioned crash pad on the heel to match with a male’s needs when they move from heel strike to toe down.
Typically, women have narrower feet with a shorter instep, a longer arch and greater variability in the forefoot. Men tend to have wider heels and flatter arches. That shows in the men’s Beyondfeel last—the tool that defines the internal shape of a shoe. It took Lululemon four years and six iterations to develop and refine the ideal last and fit found in the Beyondfeel to match with the brand’s philosophy.
“Some are quite technical, and some are more overt,” Atkins says about the differences throughout the men’s and women’s shoes. “It takes that philosophy of feel and uniquely personalizes it. You don’t see that in the footwear industry.”
Keeping in line with the success of the women’s performance running shoe line, Lululemon features a proprietary foam chemistry in the midsole, which Atkins says holds up to the best in the industry.
Adding the men’s Beyondfeel to the brand’s repertoire when it launches March 19 allows Lululemon to complete the head-to-toe look for running consumers. “In apparel, we are a legitimate running brand,” says Atkins. “Our market share alone shows that.” With the apparel dialed in, footwear comes next.
The head-to-toe starts with road running but extends beyond. Lululemon plans a March launch of the street-ready Beyondfeel design and a May launch of a trail-ready version. To give trail runners a shoe to match their environment, the Beyondfeel Trail features a more rugged upper featuring protection elements around the toe, additional stability within the heel and an outsole with increased ruggedness.
“When we wanted to enter the men’s running market, we knew we wanted to provide an upgraded feel from the Blissfeel to the Beyondfeel and offer a couple of options for on the road and street and then on the road and outdoors,” Atkins says.
That desire for a head-to-toe look doesn’t stop when consumers aren’t sweating. Lululemon is also launching the Cityverse shoe on Feb. 13, a casual design to match up with the brand’s tremendously successful ABC Pant.
The pant, Lululemon’s take on a five-pocket design that features the brand’s perspective around fit, feel, raw material innovation and approach to details, begs for a piece of footwear from the brand to sit adjacent to the look. Atkins knows that the men’s lifestyle footwear space is large and to stand out they needed to do something beyond what’s already there. That’s why the Cityverse focuses on comfort.
“When you look at the overarching industry, the popular styles are heritage models, 20, 30, 40 years old, using somewhat antiquated or traditional innovations of the time,” Atkins says. “Style often comes at a compromise of comfort.”
The cupsole outsole made for most casual products is a decades-old concept. The Cityverse, then, “accentuates feel, comfort and versatility.” Atkins says all you need to do is flip the shoe upside down and press against the visible internal midsole, something relatively unique in the casual footwear space, to feel the amount of cushion 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-centric apparel pieces from the brand’s men’s collection.
“It is the same philosophy,” he says, “of not compromising on style, while utilizing innovation performance attributes to make it super comfortable. There is a point of difference there.”
Completing the footwear offering for men, Lululemon will continue to embrace the Restfeel Slide, a men’s product launched in 2022, by making it more available within retail locations across North America. For women, a new Restfeel Sandal will join the fray this spring.
Year three isn’t a time to stop. Atkins says that while they want to “absolutely celebrate” the new running collection for men, they’re already thinking on what footwear can mean for the brand. “We are early innings,” he says, “a small part of the overall growth story within Lululemon. We are thinking very much long term and very excited about the point of view and position we have and the guest reaction of wanting a head-to-toe look. We are very excited about the growth potential in men’s and women’s across all major categories.”
The future of Lululmeon footwear started years ago, when the brand began crafting specific fits and feel for both women and men. The Beyondfeel and Cityverse launches bring consumers into the journey.