Co-branding shoes might be the hottest emerging trend in running apparel. In the past year alone, Nike launched USA Track & Field co-branded Air Pegasus+ 29 as the official shoe of the U.S. Olympic Trials, and K-Swiss released Stand Up to Cancer co-branded Kwicky Blade-Light shoes as part of their charitable alliance.
Now New Balance and Disney are getting in on the act. New Balance and runDisney, Disney’s sports branch that organizes running races at Disney parks in Florida and California, released today limited edition runDisney 860v3 running shoes that evoke Disney’s most iconic characters—Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. Minnie’s classic red and white polka dot dress inspired the design for the women’s shoe and Mickey’s black tuxedo look inspired the men’s shoe.
I had a chance to chat with New Balance’s marketing manager, Josh Rowe, before the Walt Disney World Marathon Heath & Fitness Expo this morning and see the new shoes in person.
To appeal to the most runners possible, Rowe said New Balance chose its popular 860v3 model, which is a mild stability shoe designed specifically for runners looking for a mixture of support and lightweight cushioning. Indeed, the shoe is surprisingly light in hand.
“We wanted to take the broadest shoe in our line so it can work for more people functionally,” Rowe said.
If the initial runDisney shoe is a success, Rowe said New Balance will roll out more Disney branded running shoes, which might include rerunning the current Mickey and Minnie inspired 860v3 sneaker, producing Disney shoes from other models in the New Balance line, or introducing trainers modeled after other Disney characters.
“One of the things we hope to figure out is a way to make them race specific,” Rowe said of the seven running weekends in runDisney’s series, which includes events themed around Disney princesses, villains, food festivals and more. “One option we are looking at is custom sock liners. So if it’s the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, incorporating something Tink related.”
New Balance produced 1,000 shoes for the initial run, and will produce more if it proves popular. They are available in women’s sizes 5-12 and men’s sizes 7-13 in standard widths.
“We’ll evaluate after this weekend whether we’ll make more,” Rowe said about initial sales at the Walt Disney World Marathon Health & Fitness Expo from January 10-12.
It’s all part of a long-term, multi-year partnership between Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and New Balance to produce exclusive co-branded footwear and running initiatives. New Balance is now the official athletic shoe of the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, including runDisney races and amateur baseball events at the Sports Complex.
The Sports Complex track & field facility, which annually hosts the Walt Disney World Cross Country Classic, runDisney Kid’s Races, and AAU Track and Field National Championship, is being rechristened with the New Balance name. Eventually, New Balance and Disney will also collaborate to create running trail maps at Walt Disney World and fitness programs for Disney resort guests.
“Our relationship with New Balance complements our company’s efforts to provide healthy options for families during their Disney vacation,” said George Aguel, senior vice president, Disney Corporate Alliances in a press release.
For now, Disney running fans can snap up the limited edition 860v3 shoes for $125 a pair exclusively at runDisney race expos including the Walt Disney World Marathon Health & Fitness Expo now through January 12, 2013 and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend Expo January 18-19, 2013 at Disneyland in California. In the future, the shoes will also be available at other runDisney race expos, joint New Balance and Disney events, and pop-up shops around the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Disclosure: As a member of the running media, runDisney has provided me with complimentary race entry, hotel, park tickets, airfare and some meals (like the Pasta in the Park Party) for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. But as always, all opinions are purely my own. I really do believe in being honest about my experiences and Disney is no exception. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.
Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runner’s weekly lifestyle web show about running. She has completed five marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.
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