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Adidas bets on high-tech running shoe to catch up to rivals

Adidias logos are seen on the company's building in Landersheim near Strasbourg March 31, 2009. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Adidias logos are seen on the company's building in Landersheim near Strasbourg March 31, 2009. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Adidas AG on Wednesday introduced a running shoe with technical features it says could eventually make it a leader in an area of sports gear where it has lagged competitors.

At a splashy event in New York that included an appearance by four-time Berlin marathon winner Haile Gebrselassie, Adidas launched a running shoe with cushioning it calls Boost. The cushioning was developed with BASF SE and Adidas claims it gives runners a better bounce, lasts longer than the cushioning used in 95 percent of running shoes and is better able to withstand extreme weather.

The product is aimed squarely at serious runners, a market currently dominated by brands like Brooks, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway, New Balance and Asics, rather than people who just wear running shoes to get around.

Other companies also pushing hard to get a bigger foothold in the specialty running shoe market include VF Corp's The North Face and Under Armour.

But Adidas is betting that technology will help it win over runners notorious for their brand loyalty.

"We have a lot of really good running shoes but we haven't had that thing that really moves the needle," Patrick Nilsson, president of Adidas America told Reuters at the launch, estimating that Adidas was fourth or fifth in the U.S. specialty running shoes market.

"With this, we have a chance to go to the top over time."

Adidas is beginning the launch by introducing the shoes at its own stores, online and 100 specialty running stores such as Urban Athletics and Paragon in New York, staffing each on the weekend with an Adidas employee, before a broader roll-out.

The shoes will sell for $150 a pair, making them more expensive than rivals', but Nilsson said the technology warranted what he called a "premium" price.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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