How it flourished from 1898 to today – Footwear News
Founded in 1898 on the shores of Saucony Creek in Kutztown, Pa., The former Saucony shoe brand continues to stay on track after more than a century of existence.
Decades after its debut, Saucony moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in the late 1960s after being acquired by Hyde Athletic Industries. Having already gained fame producing shoes for PF Flyers and SpotBilt, Hyde Athletic Industries took Saucony to a new level in the late 1970s when the Saucony Hornet sneaker was chosen as the best buy by the famous The runner’s world magazine.
This rising wave will continue into the 1980s as Saucony was selling so well that Hyde Athletic Industries officially changed its name to Saucony.
Pronounced “sock a knee” as seen on early packaging, the 1980s were a big time for the footwear line’s continued success. That decade alone produced iconic racing models ranging from 1981 Jazz to 1985 Shadow to 1988 Azura. Each model featured the brand’s logo on the midfoot, designed to mimic the flowing Saucony Creek and three rocks that defined it as indicated by three points.
A major moment for Saucony in their pivotal decade of the 1980s was its partnership with marathoner Rod Dixon. Originally from New Zealand, Dixon rose to world fame in 1983 when he won the New York Marathon. Working with the Saucony engineering team and taking the 1981 Saucony Jazz as a starting point, the accomplished marathoner and burgeoning brand created a new performance model: the DXN. Making the most of breathable mesh, a lower cut heel, and extra cushioning, the DXN further validated Saucony as a world-class running shoe manufacturer.
To date, the Saucony Jazz reigns as the brand’s most memorable design in retro life, closely followed by the Shadow, which made its debut as a performance trainer. At the time of its release, the Saucony Azura was revered as a running shoe known for its lightweight construction and micro-suede upper. In the late 1980s, when other brands entered visible technology, Saucony kept it consistent through linear evolution.
In the 1990s, Saucony took a two-pronged approach to further expand its presence in the running industry. First, they revived the 1985 Saucony Shadow through the 1991 Saucony Shadow 6000. This updated version of the proven favorite saw Saucony build on everything long-distance runners loved about the original. , making it evolve gradually for modern times. This meant a stiffer stance and more EVA cushioning.
Conversely, Saucony sought to enter the 1990s by novelty with Grid SD from 1991. Standing for Ground Reaction Inertia Device, the GRID system implemented a cushioning cassette in the back of the midfoot. to minimize the impact on the foot and on the joints. While considered less sexy than Nike’s visible Air Max cushioning that made waves around the same time, Saucony’s GRID system exhibited similar properties when it comes to placement and intentions.
In the early 1990s, Saucony continued to expand the GRID system footprint through the 1993 Saucony GRID 8000 and the 1994 Saucony GRID 9000. Both models progressed aesthetically through a more sophisticated design. current, backed by breathable mesh and enhanced GRID capabilities for a smoother look and a more cushioned ride. In 1998, the Saucony 3D GRID Hurricane pushed towards modern advancement while the 1995 Jazz 5000 leaned on the other approach for retro inspiration. Another highlight of this decade proved the 1994 Aya Runner, a lightweight die-cast model for trail running released at a time when the category was seeing traction among its peers.
For better or for worse, the 1990s were seen as a time when Saucony evolved its running line but still appealed especially to purists who fell in love with the brand during the previous decade. Yes, Saucony’s new ground reaction inertia device introduced a new franchise for the brand and a more tech-driven era. However, the innovation under the hood of the GRID system pales in comparison to where Nike was taking Air Max cushioning, or even what Reebok had found in DMX. In all categories, but even in the long-distance race, technology that the eye could touch and see had conquered the masses. In 1999, Asics lifted the veil on its infamous Gel cushioning by displaying it on the heel of the Asics Gel-Kayano 5. For Saucony to survive into the 2000s, the brand had better crave its 1990s strategy of showcase the heritage, while adapting to modern advances in technology visible on performance pairs.
At the dawn of the new millennium, Saucony has shown steps in the right direction with the release of the aptly named Saucony Grid 2000 and Saucony Grid Web. While neither model wowed the wall by way of a technical midsole or exposed cushioning, each pair featured a much more modern and aggressive upper that was a far cry from the Shadow or Jazz archives. During the 2000s, it became clear that playing flash game and flourishes of visual innovation was not to be Saucony’s path. Realizing this, the brand takes advantage of it by immersing itself in the competition and reviving its retro category.
With the 2003 Saucony Kilkenny XC Spike, the brand returned to its roots by avoiding trendy visual cues and focusing instead on winning races. Quickly the Kilkenny XC Spike has become a must-have for serious cross-country competitors of different skill levels. By attracting elite athletes who excelled in the field rather than bowing to mall shoppers, Saucony changed the landscape of long-distance running by releasing a slipper-style competition cleat that was similar to what the sprinters but made to go the distance.
Years later, Saucony once again cornered a performance demographic in 2009 with the release of Kinvara. After decades of brands looking to change running shoes with thick cushioning and showy technological advancements, researchers were starting to suggest that all of this innovation was harmful to the body and that a runner’s gait was much more natural. and healthy as the runner got closer to being barefoot. . With the Kinvara, Saucony has established itself as a player in this movement by launching a running shoe known for its 4mm heel-to-toe drop.
While the 2000s saw Saucony find niches in cross country and natural kicking movement, it also allowed two other opportunities that would change their course. As hinted at, Saucony has found its way into the legacy, retro and retro design trend by bringing back the iconic Jazz as a lifestyle staple. Also note, the brand has changed hands twice. First, Saucony was acquired by the Stride Rite Corporation for $ 170 million in 2005. Years later, Stride Rite and all of its properties were purchased by Payless Shoe Source in 2007, later known as Collective Brands, for $ 800 million.
During the 2010s, Saucony continued to change hands while staying in her lane. In 2011, the Peregrine built on the success of the 2009 Kinvara, extending the ideals of Kinvara to trail running and family sizing. That same year, the Guide continued to play with dropping proportions and aggressive styling. In 2012, Saucony would be acquired by Wolverine World Wide, the company that still owns the brand to this day.
Under the ownership of Wolverine World Wide, Saucony has continued to build on its strengths while adapting to industry trends. Their heritage lifestyle line, known as Saucony Originals, continued to roll out retro versions of revered favorites such as the Jazz, Shadow and Grid line, entering the modern era of in-store collaboration and retailing. high-end composition. Much like the success that Nike and New Balance enjoyed in the same retro running space, Saucony benefited from third-party creativity, lush paddles, and the massive popularity of running models.
On the performance side, Saucony competed with Nike and Adidas in tackling the trend for energy-return cushioning. The 2015 Saucony Triumph ISO 2 showcased the Everun innovation with award-winning energy return cushioning in the performance racing space. Innovation intentions easily draw parallels in performance and market trends with those of Adidas Boost and Nike React. In 2020, the Saucony Endorphine Pro ushered in SpeedRoll technology, designed to propel runners forward with every stride. Again, the intent mirrors that of Nike’s carbon fiber plate and ZoomX foam seen in their modern marathon models.
Over its 120+ year history, Saucony has remained relevant and important in the world of running and lifestyle shoes. Behind the scenes, Saucony has changed hands when it comes to ownership on several occasions, but still manages to stay true to its mission of helping athletes, whether they are running, walking or jogging the track, the field. or the trail.
An American brand since its beginnings in 1898 and also appearing as an American brand in the 2020s, Saucony has sold shoes to several generations of wearers in the United States and abroad. Expect to see Saucony continue to make impressive strides in its various segmented performance spheres as well as lifestyle with its acclaimed Originals line.