Tecnica, known well for its ski and trekking boots—some of which are custom fit—is bringing its thermomoldable technology to trail running with the launch of its Origin line. Origin stakes the claim of being the “first trail running shoe with customizable fit, in store in 20 minutes.”

With enough modifiers, like “trail” and “20 minutes,” Tecnica gets around a history of other companies that have brought different levels of personalization to the running shoe market over the past decades. That said, the Origin does bring a more comprehensive level of customization than seen before.

The Origin blends a variety of attributes to deliver a shoe just for you, which works particularly well if you have a low volume foot and narrow ankle. The customization process takes 15–20 minutes and begins with the selection of the shoe, starting with gender-specificity and then weight specificity. Lighter weight women and men (under 123 pounds for women and 163 pounds for men) get the Origin LT MS, and not-as-light women and men (over 123 pounds women and 165 pounds for men) get the Origin XT MS.

Once the correct model is selected, the fitter warms up insoles that have heat-moldable heel counters and arches. The insoles are formed to your foot with the help of a compression boot that resembles an air cast for your lower leg. Tecnica uses the same procedure— known as Customer Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.)—for its successful line of hiking boots, the Forge.

Tecnica Origin molding process
photo: courtesy Tecnica

Custom Top, Bottom or Both?

Tecnica’s customizable fit effort is the Italian brand’s solution to the question, “How can we realistically adapt as much as possible?” Underfoot, the shoes feature different lasts, midsole thicknesses and midsole densities as a way to dial in the underfoot experience to reportedly align with the gender and weight of the runner—although the gender claims are less supported than the weight assertions.

Fit and performance also get personalized via the molded arch and heel counter, the variable upper security mechanisms in the LT and XT models, and with gender-variable plastic toe reinforcements. This distinguishes the Origin from most other customization efforts in the past, where manufacturers focused on either the upper or the lower of the shoe but not both.

Many companies, including Nike, adidas and an extinct brand, “Customatix,” have allowed for customized cosmetics where consumers select various colors for different segments of their running footwear. Salomon’s ME:sh, launched in 2017, also focuses on the top of the shoe, but goes beyond cosmetics, using a foot scan and robot to build a custom sock-like upper that is attached to selected mid- and outsole components.

Adidas had a 1980’s shoe that allowed the user to plug in different midsole pegs to adjust for motion control and stiffness. The road shoe company Somnio, R.I.P., used on-the-floor running store employees to apply three interchangeable components to tune for the runner’s particular gait and unique biomechanics, focusing on arch support and alignment among the ankle, foot and lower leg. Not unlike Tecnica’s Origin, Somnio’s customizable parts included footbeds, cushion inserts and plug-in varus angulation parts in an effort to dial in the runner’s biomechanics.

Another proposed running shoe customization process was announced in late 2017 as a joint effort by Brooks, Hewlett-Packard, Superfeet and FitStation. This would involve an in-store questionnaire, a 3D foot scan and pressure plate impressions to create personalized insole/midsole with runner-specific arch, foot length and mapped cushioning. The custom midsole would then be attached to a standardized upper and shipped to the customer. The process appears to be more difficult than anticipated as the technology’s predicted release date has come and long gone.

Tecnica Origin fitting
photo: courtesy Tecnica

At Your Local Running Store

“Manufacturers have been attempting to produce custom-fit running shoes for many years,” observes Federico Sbrissa, Tecnica’s footwear Business Unit Manager. “But the solutions delivered thus far have been complicated, expensive, and eliminate the value that a quality retailer provides.” Tecnica, which started making shoes in 1930, knows a lot about sporting footwear, as Italy’s largest brand. It did, after all, bring us the Moon Boot.

The time required by the fitting process might be a barrier for some: Customers must invest 20 minutes after shoe selection to create the custom-fit shoe. That time does allow the shop worker to serve other customers during the 8-minunte warming periods. It’s a small price to pay for this level of customization, however, and Tecnica’s in-store fitting should be a welcome, value-adding customer benefit that brick-and-mortar retailers can use to drive traffic for a full-service experience—one that differentiates them from on-line dealers.

TECNICA_ORIGIN_TON4505
photo: courtesy Tecnica

As for the shoe: The Origin is a rather firm yet flexible model with adequate cushioning on softer ground but a bit Spartan underfoot for descending rocky terrain if you aren’t used to feeling the ground. The snug fit of the long, skinny upper really holds the foot in place, making them great for agility over technical trails but not suitable for runners who want or need a wide toe box.