In January, New Balance will launch two 2014 Disney running shoes — a new version of the updated 860v4 stability shoe and a variation of the 890v4 neutral shoe. The men’s 890v4 ($120) will have a Goofy theme and color motif, while the women’s will carry a Cinderella theme. The new 860v4 models ($125) will have a a pink polka-dot Minnie Mouse theme for women and a red, yellow and blue Sorcerer Mickey theme for men. The 860v4 shoe will be available in kids’ sizes ($72) with a Minnie/Mickey theme.
The 2014 shoes will be packaged in a commemorative runDisney box. Race kits with footbeds highlighting each of the seven Disney races, collectible lace charms and a special sticker will be sold separately.
The new shoes will debut at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend expo in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 8–12 and, and as with the 2013 shoes, will only be available at the remaining six runDisney race expos. The shoes will not be sold online, at Disney stores, New Balance stores or specialty running stores.
Meanwhile, initial planning for the 2015 Disney shoes has begun. As with previous models, each will be based on existing in-line New Balance shoes.
“I think the most important thing we want our consumers to know is that we’re taking two of our best shoes in our NBx performance line—our go-to 890 neutral cushioning shoe and our go-to 860 stability shoe—and, yes, we’re creating a special make-up of the shoe for runDisney, but there should be an expectation that they’ll be great shoes because they’re based exactly off the same go-to in-line models available at stores,” says Ali McGuinn, integrated marketing associate for New Balance.
After the somewhat unexpected wild popularity at the first runDisney event last January, New Balance officials scrambled to move up production and re-order additional quantities of the shoes for the remainder of the year. They sold almost completely out of their entire inventory at every runDisney event, a rather uncanny feat when it comes to race expo shoe sales.
Typically a big running shoe company might bring 400 to 1,000 pairs of shoes to a major marathon expo—New York City, Boston or Chicago, for example—where 20,000 or more runners might pass through en route to picking up their race packet. But in those cases, the expectation is that only half of the shoes might sell, because most runners don’t buy shoes at race expos and often the company runs out of specific sizes at its expo booth.
But at the first runDisney event last January, New Balance, which shipped a quantity that was on par with its success at expos in Boston and New York, sold through every pair it hand on hand. (New Balance won’t give out the actual numbers, but a 1,000 pairs is a good guesstimate.) At that event and every subsequent race expo, runners eager to buy Disney shoes lined up and, if they were told their size was no longer available by the time they reached the shoe-fitting area, many bought another size or whatever size was left. New Balance is bringing five times as many shoes to this year’s Walt Disney World Marathon Expo.
“We’ve never seen anything close to that kind of an excitement for a shoe,” says Josh Rowe, who heads up global performance marketing for New Balance. “People stood in line for an hour or more and bought any size that was left, even if it wasn’t close to their size.”
New Balance designed the 2013 in relatively short time window, given that the agreement was just being formulated in the fall of 2012. But for the 2014 models, the New Balance footwear team working on the project was able to visit with Disney product and merchandising teams, as well as gain insights from visiting Disney World. After several rounds of design phases, the shoes were finalized in September.
The New Balance Disney footwear project is the latest example of the small but growing trend of special edition running shoes. Several companies, including New Balance, have launched special editions of shoes for the New York City Marathon and Boston Marathon in recent years. Spira, a small footwear company in El Paso, Texas, has been working on a “Duck Dynasty” collection of running shoes in collaboration with the hit TV show on the A&E Network. ASICS has created shoes to help raise breast cancer awareness and prostate cancer awareness. New Balance has a separate partnership with the Boston Red Sox, but as of yet, there are no plans to launch a Red Sox-themed running shoe.