Men's Comfort Brands Talk Technology

Guys' passion for gadgets and technology extends to their shoes.

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There’s no question men are driven by technology. Whether it’s checking out the latest smart phones or a new set of wheels, guys want to know how things work. The same holds true for their shoes.

Although the athletic market has long been recognized for its focus on technology, the comfort market is not far behind. From proprietary footbeds to motion-control designs, vendors are routinely introducing new comfort systems into their collections, as well as refining existing ones when new materials and components come along.

However, building innovative technologies into footwear is only half the battle when it comes to enticing male consumers. Brands also must effectively communicate their technology to today’s savvy shoppers. To make the tech connection, comfort brands are using a wide variety of marketing tactics, from in-store visuals to technology sections on their Websites.

Still more effective in spreading a brand’s tech message, industry sources said, are well-informed sales associates. “The more information [brands] provide to a salesperson that they can in turn convey to a customer, the better chance the customer walks out with a pair of shoes,” said Andrew Tastad, VP of sales for Auri Footwear.

Here, seven brands share the tech lowdown on their shoes.

Johnston & Murphy, Nashville, Tenn.

Technology: XC4 Comfort System, debuting for spring ’10 in select styles

How it works: XC4 is a four-part system featuring a removable cushioned footbed that converts a medium width into a wide width. Made of foam, the footbed is layered over a lightweight molded EVA midsole. Interior climate control is achieved through a moisture-wicking Dri-Lex covering on the footbed that is odor-resistant and provides enhanced breathability. A high-density rubber outsole with a channel system provides shock absorption and optimum flexibility.

Marketing tactics: Consumers are invited to try a pair of XC4 shoes with a no-questions-asked guarantee if they are not satisfied. The promotion will be supported by local ads, national ads in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times beginning in March, and various online sites. POS displays will promote the new technology in-store.

Michael Toschi International, San Carlos, Calif.

Technology: CarbonLite Ionet Suspension (CIS), debuted in 1998

How it works: The footbed is built on an anatomically shaped carbon fiber platform nested in EVA with gel pads under the heel and the ball of the foot. Its natural contours are designed to cradle the heel and bridge the arch. And the Ionet Suspension system built into the soles is composed of molded response zones that individually react to the loads applied by the wearer. The heel strike zone cushions impact, the torsion zone controls twisting loads, and independent suspension pillars move back and forth to absorb the shock waves imposed by the ball of the foot.

Marketing tactics: The CIS system is featured on the Michael Toschi Website. To educate sales associates, special key rings with actual shoe components attached are available to retailers.

Piloti, Westlake Village, Calif.

Technology: Racing Comfort footbed, debuting for spring ’10

How it works: The contoured Racing Comfort footbed, made of a high-density foam composed of recycled polyurethane, cork and reground rubber, is breathable, moisture-wicking and antibacterial. For long-wearing comfort, the foam has a nearly 100 percent recovery after prolonged compression and features high-abrasion, tear and tensile strength. It is designed to work in concert with Piloti’s existing Roll Control technology, a wrapped spherical heel that provides cushioning behind the heel bone while driving and mimics the natural heel motion while walking.

Marketing tactics: The technology is featured on, as well as on in-store POS materials and product hang tags.

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