Danny Abshire is back in the running shoe business. The self-made, running form guru, who co-founded Newton Running in Boulder, Colo. in 2006 with his wife Jennifer and business partner Jerry Lee, has launched a new line of shoes with a unique flair under his Active Imprints custom insole business.
Plying his relationships in the Chinese footwear manufacturing industry and utilizing a small-batch production model, Abshire has produced a super-light training/racing flat with a Colorado flag logo and a lightweight lifestyle shoe aimed at the athleisure market. Aside from a handful of events, the shoes will only be sold online through their Active Imprints custom footbed website.
He received his first shipment of 500 shoes on May 25 and sold them prior to the Bolder Boulder 10K in late May and Boulder Ironman weekend in Boulder in early June. “We’re excited to be back in the marketplace with something fun, lightweight and unique,” said Abshire. “This is just the start of what we plan to do. With small-batch production, we can be nimble and continually create new models.”
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Abshire’s new line isn’t a white-labeling project. He played a hands-on role in developing the shoes with the Do-Win shoe company in China and sees it as his re-entry into the performance shoe market after an unfortunate falling out with Newton Running. Both of the new Active Imprints shoes are built on a technically-advanced, single-layer foam chassis that has a semi-firm, responsive demeanor and ventilation/drain holes through the bottom of the outsole.
The white, yellow, red and blue Boulder performance-oriented shoe has an airy, seamless mesh upper that is secured by an internal support strap and flat, stretchy performance laces. The heather gay and yellow Active 88 model, which was designed for gym workouts, travel, light running and after-workout casual wear, has a lightweight quilted upper with round, stretchy laces secured by a toggle closure.
Each model features a 6mm heel-toe offset with stack heights of 19mm in the heel and 13mm in the forefoot. The Boulder model weighs 5.8 oz. (for a men’s size 9), while the Active 88 tips the scales at about 6.3 oz. Both shoes are priced at $120. Boulder-based pro triathlete Sean Daugherty picked up a pair of the Boulder model the first weekend Abshire was selling the shoes and has since been training in them almost daily in preparation for the Boulder Ironman 70.3 race on August 4.
“I’ve run in that shoe for about a month and I really love it,” said Daugherty, 25, who placed fifth at the long course race at the Wildflower Triathlon on May 5 in California. “It’s under 6 ounces, which is super nice. I think anytime you can shed weight off a shoe and not sacrifice the comfort and durability, that’s a good thing. It’s pretty much all mesh in the upper, which has been super comfortable for the hot weather training I have been doing. And it will be great for hot races because it breathes and drains so well. And maybe best of all, when I travel to races in other states, I can rep my Colorado pride.”
Abshire’s new shoe line is the latest among small brands to start up in the endurance and athleisure markets beginning primarily with online sales and targeted social media marketing. That’s the same scenario Newton Running used in 2007 and similar to how brands like Roka, All Birds, Tracksmith, Rabbit and Oiselle have gained ground quickly. It’s also helped that more Asian factories have are becoming adept at small batch production runs and quicker turnaround times.
“I think the key to getting product in small number of units on a short timeline is having the right relationships,” said Kay Martin, the founder and president of Boulder-based BOCO Gear, which produces custom hats and accessories for races, clubs and brands. “There aren’t many factories that will do it. They want the big orders and the small orders. If you show them you’ll be producing more units and volume and really build that relationship, yeah, that’s the way it’s moving.”
If the launch of the initial shoes is successful—so far he says he’s sold more than half of the initial 500 pairs and just received his second 500-pair shipment—Abshire plans to create additional special make-up shoes with new themes, as well as an everyday performance training shoe with customizable insoles. He’s also reached out to running clubs, races and other organizations to offer custom-logoed models.
Daugherty has also been running in the prototype version of the everyday trainer and testing out a variety of Abshire’s semi-custom insoles. “I only just met him a month ago, but he’s given me a lot of helpful tips to help improve my form and efficiency,” Daugherty said. “He obviously has a lot of knowledge about running gait and footwear that he took that into Newton, and with his new line you can definitely see that he knows what he’s doing.”
The upstart shoe launch is a family affair, with Danny spearheading shoe development, Jennifer handling sales and marketing and son, Cody, providing some of the brand’s design inspiration. “Our idea is to make small batches of unique shoes,” shared Danny. “I think there’s a real trend for people wanting unique looking shoes with a versatile, athletic vibe, a more casual look and an interesting story as opposed to an overly techy looking shoe that everybody is wearing from a huge brand.”
The Abshires opened their Active Imprints custom insole business in Boulder in 1988 and gained acclaim by helping triathletes, marathoners, ultradistance runners, cyclists and mountaineers improve their gait patterns to achieve greater efficiency and stability. Ironman champions Paula Newby Fraser, Mark Allen, Peter Reid, Lori Bowden, Natascha Badmann, Scott Molina and Craig Alexander have been among their high-profile clients, as has Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and former major league baseball player and manager Walt Weiss.
Abshire started tinkering with unique running shoe designs in the 1990s and eventually co-launched Newton Running in 2007. Newton shoes are notable for their unique external lugs that compress into the forefoot to promote energy return. That brand gained initial success through the triathlon world by selling direct to consumers online, promoting its shoes at Ironman expos and signing an endorsement deal with Alexander—who would go on to win the Ironman World Championships three times (2008, 2009 and 2011) wearing Newton racing flats.
The Abshires were integral to the growth of Newton, but they were relegated to running the company’s Boulder retail store in 2015 and were eventually let go in 2017 as the company went through two major financial reorganization periods. “It was really sad how all of that happened, but we’ve moved on,” Abshire said. “We’re excited to be creating fun products that will help people be active and live a healthy lifestyle.”