New Balance Drops the PRJ 1.0, the First in Its “TEST RUN” Program

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Just recently, Highsnobiety was on the ground at New Balance’s Global Research, Design, and Development Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to get an exclusive look at the making of the PRJ 1.0, the first sneaker release from the brand’s new <TEST_RUN> program.

The program is an outlet for New Balance to test ideas in performance footwear, ideas that may otherwise not fit its traditional product creation lifecycle. Here, designers are given the green light to experiment with new technologies, techniques, and materials, and to bring their creations to market (albeit in smaller quantities) much faster. A sneaker can take up to 18 months to produce from conception to retail, which is industry standard; <TEST_RUN> brought PRJ 1.0 to market in eight months. This speediness not only breaks new ground for New Balance, but for the sneaker industry at large.

While touring the center’s design area, we spoke to Chad Marianelli, a senior designer, who filled us in on <TEST_RUN>’s roots. “<TEST_RUN> gave me an opportunity to take a bold swing and create something distinct. My favorite shoes of all time are easily recognizable and iconic, but have a distinct visual – something that when someone sees it on footth from 20 feet away, you immediately recognize it. The inspiration for PRJ 1.0 came from that idea to create a great performance running shoe, but with memorable design details like PRJ 1.0’s midsole fins and N logo.”

<TEST_RUN> really is about experimentation and risk-taking, so much so that New Balance isn’t simply judging success of these releases based on sales. According to Running SBU manager Kevin Fitzpatrick, the role of social engagement and feedback from customers will factor in as well.

The sneakers have generated a lot of interest in the <TEST_RUN> program internally. Trampas Tenbroek, senior sports research manager at New Balance’s Sports Research Lab, explains his interest: “For <TEST_RUN>, we get a lot of good information before it hits the marketplace, but we know that the lab-based testing does not exactly replicate what happens in the real world. With <TEST_RUN>, we’ll be able to take these concepts that we think are very interesting, push the envelope, make sure they’re good, and then leverage some of the learnings the consumer will be able to give us, which we don’t usually have the opportunity to get.”

The PRJ 1.0 comes in two colorways, each with a ’90s vibe, and features big cushioning, an Abzorb midsole, and Acteva support. The sneakers, which dropped on July 19, are still available at New Balance’s website. Take a closer look at the sneakers below, and click away to cop a pair.

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