Steve Lesnard of The North Face has brought innovative disruption again to the outdoor footwear market with Vectiv, a new shoe designed to give trail athletes greater propulsion through enhanced energy return whether going uphill, downhill or crossing technical terrain, while reducing downhill impact by 10%.
Featured in Forbes, The North Face’s Vectiv has been available to the public since January 2021.
“Our inspiration for the Vectiv started on Mt. Blanc in France,” The North Face global senior vice president of marketing and product Steve Lesnard told reporter Tim Newcomb in an interview for Forbes. “We designed Vectiv to optimize energy on all kinds of trail terrain. Vectiv powers you forward, allowing you to run comfortably longer by reducing the impact of the trail on your body.”
Vectiv Builds on Recent Innovations in Shoes for Running on the Trail
Lesnard’s associate Michael Thompson, The North Face senior product director of footwear, explained to Forbes that the Vectiv’s design builds from its underfoot plate. The underfoot plate gives the wearer fore-aft and lateral control. It is engineered to add propulsion at the end of the stride.
Vectiv’s cushioned mid-layer can be tuned to provide variable levels of cushioning and rebound, depending on terrain, and its outsole has a novel surface control technology with lug patterns and compounds designed for high-impact running on trails.
Vectiv’s innovations add to the attraction of its waterproof but breathable Futurelight fabric that it debuted in 2019. Lesnard says the technical changes in the Vectiv were inspired by the company’s experience with the UTMB race through the Alps of France, Switzerland, and Italy. In the UTMB, 40% of runners could not complete the course due to muscle fatigue. Even runners who completed the highly technical course experienced extensive muscle fatigue. The Vectiv has been designed to counteract these problems.
Runners praise Vectiv for its fit, cushion, comfort, response, versatility, and dry traction. Streamlined with thin laces and no extra material, the Vectiv has just enough space for a secure fit.
Steve Lesnard says timing is an important part of successful product innovation
The North Face CMO and VP of Product Creation Steve Lesnard has over two decades of experience guiding international marketing campaigns for athletic footwear. Lesnard attributes the success of those campaigns to The North Face’s consumer-centric culture. Listening to the constantly changing needs of customers drives the innovations that result in market dominance. Successful companies disrupt a level their customers find personal, measurably, and meaningfully creating a superior experience of the product.
Steve Lesnard’s approach to innovation at The North Face has been to sponsor athletes who dedicate large parts of their lives to activities that involve The North Face footwear. When the technical issues for satisfying sponsored athletes are resolved, then the company can match the product to a broader base of enthusiastic buyers.
But understanding what consumers want is only part of Lesnard’s winning strategy. Lesnard often points out that companies also need to know when they want it. The North Face creates a buzz about its products through the experiences of its athletes as the new technologies are in development, and then expands each product line to incorporate other features consumers want.
Vectiv, for example, is currently available in 15 styles of trail hiking and running shoes.
The success of The North Face, Lesnard says, is its ability to make a precise match between product innovation and customer awareness. Thanks to his drive for constant innovation, The North Face brings the running world the latest in technology at scale.