To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the death of the innovative Ampla Fly running shoe have been greatly exaggerated.
In fact, the highly technical upstart shoe brand is alive and well—so alive and well, in fact, that Ampla just started selling its first shoes to consumers via its website late last week. Men’s and women’s sizes are available in red or black for $180.
“We just went live (on Wednesday), and it’s pretty exciting,” said Rob Colby, one of two former Quiksilver Inc. executives who acquired the assets of Ampla out of Quiksilver bankruptcy proceedings in October. “We have about 2,000 units and we’ll have more, but we’re trying to gauge demand before we gobble up too much inventory. For now, we’re just a garage band starting slow, but I’m psyched about the possibilities.”
The small start-up company got off the ground a few years ago under Quiksilver Inc. as a Brand X innovation project, but it was kept entirely under wraps. Under the leadership of shoe industry veterans David Bond and Tom Hartge and the expertise of noted sports scientist Marcus Elliott, Ampla developed prototypes of the Ampla Fly, a running shoe with a unique carbon-fiber spring-like flange intended to load under pressure and launch forward as the foot lifts off the ground. Simply put: When a runner pushes off the ground to begin a new stride, the shoe is designed to provide a propulsive sensation, almost like a small boost of energy under the forefoot.
Elliott is a Harvard-trained physician who specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention of pro athletes in team sports and endurance sports at P3 Applied Sports Science in Santa Barbara, Calif. Elliott and Bond have said the shoe design is intended to guide the foot to a better ground contact position, gathers force at mid-stance and maximizes force application at the toe-off phase of the running gait. Ultimately, Bond says, it can help improve running mechanics, cadence and posture.
PHOTOS: Get A Glimpse Of The Ampla Fly
The Ampla team unveiled the shoe to Competitor in November 2014 and then showed it off at The Running Event trade show a few weeks later in Austin, Texas. The small Ampla team conducted consumer wear-tests with a few Southern California running groups in early 2015 and used some of that input to make final design tweaks before manufacturing a small production run of about 2,000 shoes.
But when Quiksilver revealed it was a bit sideways financially last summer and officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September, it was clear that it was no longer in position to continue the Ampla project. A month later, Colby and Charles Exon stepped in to acquire it for a reported $200,000, completing a process that began early last summer.
Colby, a former pro surfer for Quiksilver who rose through the company to eventually serve as president of Quiksilver’s Americas division from November 2011 until February 2015, and Exon, Quiksilver’s former chief legal officer, sent an initial purchase offer for Ampla in July, according to bankruptcy court documents.
For now, the new Ampla team consists of Colby, Exon and Bond, as well as a continuing partnership with Elliott and P3. Future products and concepts based specifically on kinematic science are possible in the near future based on the research originating from P3’s new running lab, Colby said, but additional funding needs to be raised in the meantime.
“I was intrigued from the start,” Colby said. “David explained it to me and what they were doing with Dr. Elliott, creating a shoe that optimizes a runner’s use of force. It was the simplest thing and I couldn’t believe no one had done it. And it was wrapped up in what I thought was a pretty elegant and different design.
“I really believe in this sports science angle and I believe in David Bond as a chief brand officer, so I think there is a great opportunity. But like I said, we’re a garage band right now.”