Airwalk skateboarding shoes have more sole

Move over Nike and Reebok. There's a new athletic shoe on the block and it's unlike anything else on the market. In fact, it isn't even on the market yet, but skateboarders from around the country are eagerly awaiting its introduction in April 2002.

What makes this product so unique is the material. Forget air or gel technology, the Airwalk is the first athletic shoe anywhere in the world to incorporate Verus Technology. In essence, plastic beads manufactured by Dow Chemical Co. are formed into geometric cones that are then molded together in opposing formation. The material is then formed into the shoe itself.

"This is really the ultimate in cushioning technology," said Dan Brown, vice president of product marketing for TARE7, the parent company that developed the Airwalk line of skateboarding shoes.

Compared with mom's pair of Keds that are designed for a stroll around the park, the Airwalk is manufactured for performing rigorous maneuvers like ollies, kickflips and backside 50-50s. And unlike air and gel shoes that can break down under constant stress, the Verus Technology is characterized by a completely solid synthetic structure that absorbs impacts and can be tuned or adjusted at certain pressure points for maximum performance.

"Some pro skaters who skate eight to 10 hours a day will wear out a pair of shoes in a week or two," said Brown. "What we've created is a very durable shoe that will give skaters the most wear."

With headquarters in Golden, TARE7 employs about 65 people and markets two other product lines -- the Genetic brand of skateboarding shoes for hard-core skaters and Ripzome, a brand of apparel and accessories for the action sports market.

While the most obsessive of skateboarders choose the Genetic brand, the upcoming debut of the Airwalk line is poised to benefit from an overall growing market appeal.

"Skateboarding is the fastest-growing sport in America," said Brown. About 11.6 million people -- mostly males between 12 and 24 years of age -- participate in the $1 billion industry.

Brown believes the trend will continue as teen-aged boys -- many of whom have switched their allegiance from watching the Olympics to the X Games -- are joining the ranks of skateboarders when choosing to participate in the wide variety of extreme and action sports.

"It's their sport. It's very inventive and it's a social thing," he said.

In fact, Denver is home to the largest free skateboarding park in the country, which the City and County of Denver built and opened this year along the Platte River. Even suburbs and small towns in Colorado have made skateboard parks among their top recreational priorities.

The trend is picking up nationally as well. But it was Colorado's already strong market and local commitment to youth sports that brought TARE7 to Golden in 2000.

The company, however, has a considerably longer history than its recent Golden incarnation. Formerly called Airwalk International, the company was started in Southern California in 1986 and then sold. In the early 1990s, the business moved to Altoona, Penn. When it was acquired by New York-based Sunrise Capital Partners in 1999, the TARE7 parent company was formed and operations were moved to Golden.

Although Airwalk had already gained a credible reputation as an action sports shoe, the intensely competitive nature of the sporting goods industry demands that companies seek out new technologies for improving products. As such, TARE7 hooked up with Englewood-based Skydex, which owns the Verus Technology, to create the Airwalk line of snowboarding shoes.

In tests performed at Iowa State University's Department of Health and Human Performance, the Verus Technology proved to be a superior material when a variety of sports shoes were subjected to a series of heavy load impacts.

According to the university's laboratory reports, "The results show that the Verus was best able to reduce the impact that would be experienced by the body. The air would be second and the gel third."

With the Verus Technology providing the soul and sole of the Airwalk shoes, TARE7 believes its products are poised to be the most innovative shoes on store shelves. Dubbed the Trinity Project -- for the three models in the shoe line -- the Airwalk Dominator, Creeper and Diplomat were introduced at the Western Shoe Association's August 2001 trade show.

When the shoes are distributed to select stores next year, the Dominator will retail for $80 a pair, as will the Creeper. The Diplomat will be priced at $70.