BY BILL CHAFEY
SANTA CLAUS, IN –
In a move that could prove to be a game changer in the running shoe world, runner and running shoe enthusiast Troy Breining is in the preliminary stages of designing a shoe with a negative heel-to-toe differential. Though current market trends favor the continued dominance of highly cushioned trainers now offered by most major shoe manufacturers, Breining’s surprising twist on the minimalist trend that reached its peak nearly three years ago could produce reverberations felt throughout the industry.
“The problem with minimalism was not that it went too far,” Breining stated on a phone interview, “but that it didn’t go far enough. My patent-pending negative drop technology fixes that problem, and then some.”
Utilizing his proprietary VertSlope© midsole, Breining will load the forefoot with “so much EVA, it’ll make Hokas look like Vibram Five Fingers.” The excess of EVA foam will raise the stack height of the forefoot to levels never seen before in running shoes. (Breining plans to develop models with forefoot heights as great as 30mm.) Rounding out the midsole as it slopes downward from the toe box area will be midfoot/rearfoot sections consisting of a thermoplastic polyurethane/nitrile rubber hybrid, the first of its kind. “As you move from the forefoot down the shoe,” Breining says, “it just gets better and better.” Breining promises an “immensely comfortable foot strike, liquid smooth transition, and powerfully soft toe-off.”
Breining’s interest in developing a shoe with negative drop technology was first kindled in 2011, when he purchased and ran in a pair of first-generation Brooks Pure Connect. “I loved the low 4mm drop,” says Breining, “but the foam in the forefoot compressed way too fast for me and just wasn’t soft enough anyway.” Breining later ran in a pair of Mizuno Evo Cursoris, a zero drop entry that has since been discontinued. “The Mizunos were closer – they had that spongy forefoot and were almost responsive enough for me to not pursue developing my own shoe.” A lingering suspicion that he could improve on designs crafted by experts with advanced degrees led Breining to his basement to draft a superior alternative.
If made available commercially, the shoe, the most extreme version of which resembles a reversed wedge or platform shoe, would be the clear maverick in a field dominated by positive drop, medium to highly cushioned running shoes. Though a prototype does not yet exist, Breining has plans to shop his creation around to all major running shoe manufacturers when finished. “There’s a clear need for my negative drop technology,” Breining said. “Just wait – in a few years, VertSlope© will be a household term!”