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ASICS GEL-FujiRado, Photo: Courtesy of BOA

BOA’s ingress into the super-competitive run space started—literally—with a sprint.

Already well-established in dozens of industries, including snowboard, golf and cycling, the manufacturers of the innovative dial lacing system met up with New Balance five years ago with the very specific intention of adding their system to track spikes for sprinters.

It took more than 80 iterations, but the Denver-based company collaborated with New Balance and built a track shoe worthy of sprinters at the nearby Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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New Balance Vazee Sigma, Photo: Courtesy of BOA

“It started as a niche project with New Balance and we had to earn the credibility of the athletes,” says Clark Morgan, who handles BOA’s running accounts. “We had to show that it could perform at this level. But the long-term goal was always for the mass consumer.”

From there, the sprint slowed to a deliberate and measured tip-toe. Competitor magazine was granted a tour of BOA’s Denver facility this week for a behind-the-curtain look at the five-year process that brought the running shoes from prototype to shelves. There were a couple of “soft openings” along the way. But BOA’s official entrance into the shoe space happened earlier this month with the launch of the ASICS GEL-FujiRado ($130).

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Photo: Courtesy of BOA

Several more collaborations with Under Armor, New Balance and ASICS will be released in the coming months.

The testing process of bringing the shoes to market was a brutal one—on the testers and the shoes. But the running shoes also had the benefit of 17 years of BOA’s trial and errors in all of their other categories. The laces, for example, are obviously a different material than the steel thread used for snowboard boots. But the engineers were tasked with making a lacing system for running that was just as strong.

If you can think of an inhospitable environment, chances are the BOA folks have also. From sweltering heat and humidity to mud slurries and freezing temperatures, thousands of hours were put into breaking the lacing system, fixing it, and then breaking it again.

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One of dozens of environmental tests. This one is how the BOA lacing system performs after being soaked in cold mud. Photo: Kevin Gemmell

“You’re not going to have a catastrophic failure,” Morgan says. “We’re always willing to make mistakes, so long as we’re solving them along the way. ‘Probably going to be fine’ doesn’t work for us. We’ve taken testing to a whole other level. We have more than 1,800 hours of field work just on our product. Then we turn it over to ASICS, New Balance and Under Armor and give them the chance to try to break it.”

When they finally reached that point, they knew they were ready to bring the shoes to market.

“If you have the blessing of those big companies that can help pioneer something like this, it validates it out of the gate,” says Kevin Stayart, marketing manager for BOA’s athletic division. “A runner is a very fickle athlete. It’s very powerful when you can convert a runner into a (particular) model. A subtle overlay change changes their entire perspective on a shoe. If we can earn the respect of New Balance, ASICS and Under Armor, it’s the first hurdle. The second hurdle is the consumer.”

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