Reebok is bringing back the Pump, the inflatable sneaker that became one of the company’s most popular products after it was first designed in 1989. Boston-based Reebok hopes that resurrecting the Pump will help efforts to reinvigorate the brand, which has lost favor since its heyday in the ’90s, after it was overshadowed by Nike.
The new version, called the ZPump Fusion, uses the original inflatable air-bladder design, created to adapt its shape to every foot. Instead of the 46 parts most running shoes are made of, this one has just three: the brand’s signature ZRated outsole, an inflatable Pump membrane that covers the midfoot, and a seamless one-piece sleeve upper. The fit is customizable when you press an air-pump mechanism that inflates the shoe like a cushiony balloon around your foot, a design originally inspired by inflatable splints.
“Many running shoes are developed around a rigid, factory-developed last shape that can never be a true representation of your unique foot,” Paul Litchfield, inventor of the Pump and head of Reebok Advanced Concepts, told Women’s Wear Daily (subscription required). “The ZPump Fusion is completely structure-less when not inflated and then molds to the shape of your foot once you put it on and inflate. It conforms to the shape of your foot to give you a locked-in, custom fit when you run. To get that security, you may need three pumps or you may need eight pumps — it is fully customizable for each person.”
Customizable or “smart” shoes are one of the latest goals in shoe design these days, and Litchfield, who helped reimagine the new Pump design, is hoping to capitalize on that, as Bloomberg reports. But the inflatable bladder technology is no longer new and revolutionary like it was when first introduced in 1989, and at a time when 3-D printing hints at an era of mass customization, will consumers really flock to a throwback design like Pumps?
Reebok hopes its branding strategy with the new Pumps will make up for the lack of novelty: Reebok’s marketers are targeting a new customer base the company has labeled “Fit Gen-ers.” They’re courting not just runners but fans of newer fitness fads, like CrossFitters, UFC mixed martial artists, and Spartan Racers.
The new Pump is cheaper to manufacture than the original, which retailed for a steep $170 (about $320 in today’s money). The ZPump Fusion in three colorways on Tuesday and will sell for $110.