Co-Creating HOKA Running Shoes
HOKA, a brand experiencing rapid growth, set out to design their next generation running shoe. As they did, they wanted understanding and inspiration─to learn what needs matter most and what needs are unfulfilled in order to design the ideal shoe for elite runners. For Vital Findings, the challenge was to go deep into the psyche of runners and their relationship with the run, while translating that very tangibly into the technical performance and expressive style of a running shoe.
We designed a layered, experiential insights program that culminated with the in-person collaboration between HOKA product designers and elite runners themselves, many of whom were resistant to the brand. To ensure the success of the co-creation, we needed to use familiar approaches in unexpected ways. We used shop-a-longs to uncover unmet needs, but we also used them to immerse runners in the category and spark their own imaginative thinking. We used focus groups to push past performance and get to the heart of the run, but we also used them to prime HOKA’s designers for the co-creation itself─building their empathy for the runner and coaching them to prevent creative vulnerability from limiting the possibilities.
Inviting runners, including the brand’s nay-sayers, into the creative process sparked new thinking and broke through barriers. By the end of the co-creation session, a technical roadmap had been built for a running shoe set to drop as part of the 2024 spring line, one that will deliver on the nuanced performance needs of the running elite, as well as the style they rely on for self-expression.