Vimazi, a Portland, Ore.-based shoe startup which pairs runners with shoes that match their running pace, has raised $600,000 in seed funding to help launch its high-tech footwear later this year.
The funding will help spur the first round of production, said Scott Tucker, co-founder and CEO of Vimazi. The company declined to provide details on investors.
Vimazi calls its custom insoles FastPods. They respond to the different speeds of a runner to provide better cushioning and “maximum energy efficiency,” according to the company. FastPods are designed to work in sync with a runner’s pace to move more efficiently, and the heel and forefoot pads are tuned separately, accounting for differences in impact and propulsion forces.
“We discovered that because the forces under your foot change in this very precise way according to how fast you run, that we could use that to engineer a shoe that’s going to perform better,” said Tucker, a competitive runner and shoe industry veteran.
Customers purchase Vimazi shoes based on their running pace. There are six models which cover the range of speeds from 5-to-30 minutes per mile. They will sell for $160.
Before the shoes are available to purchase in this fall, Tucker said the company will publish several scientific papers outlining the engineering and physics to verify how the shoes work.
Vimazi invented pace-tuned technology, and it is patent pending, Tucker said. Running footwear is a large market, so the startup has many big name competitors, but Tucker isn’t concerned.
“Nobody else has it,” Tucker said. “Furthermore, competitor brands will find it hard to meet the pace-tuned challenge, because they are built on legacy models and claim that every shoe is suitable for every runner. Vimazi says that each runner has specific needs, and that you can meet those needs with pace-tuned shoes.”
The idea of running shoes that provide “energy return” has been around for several years, and some models from brands such as Brooks and Nike tout unique cushioning systems. Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly sparked controversy after elite marathoners broke world records using the shoes, which feature foam that reportedly acts “almost like leg muscles” to prevent fatigue.
John Zilly, Vimazi co-founder and chief marketing officer, said the tech Vimazi has introduced is a “logical jump forward” for the shoe market.
“There’s no reason all running shoes shouldn’t be tuned by pace in the future,” Zilly said. “All walking shoes as well.”
Vimazi also has an app, RunCrush, which helps users create a training plan based on age, gender, current fitness and goal. Other footwear brands have done the same, including Adidas, Under Armour, Asics, and Nike.
Tucker said Vimazi products will enter the market both directly to the consumer through e-commerce and traditional retail channels. The shoe release will begin in the U.S., but Tucker said there is global interest in the product.
Travel restrictions and supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic may push the company’s launch date back. However, Tucker said the pandemic also created more of an interest in running, so the timing of Vimazi’s product launch was “auspicious.”
“People are returning to in-person running races, marathons, that sort of thing,” Tucker said. “So it gives us opportunity for exposure right upon launch.”
Tucker has completed five of the six World Marathon Majors and previously led the running shoe and triathlon branch of biking giant Pearl Izumi. Prior to that, he was president of trail-running brand Montrail, which was acquired by Columbia Sportswear in 2006. He also led running shoes at Scott Sports. Zilly previously ran marketing agency Milepost59.
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