Whether we like it or not, most of us are bound to certain brands when it comes to trainers. Perhaps you’re a strictly Asics-wearing marathoner, a New Balance obsessive or a dedicated Nike disciple, sporty types usually have a go-to, which is why I have to admit, I was a little sceptical when I heard that luxury apparel company Lululemon was entering the footwear category earlier this year. The competition for running shoes these days is just so high.
A performance shoe built for women
The brand unveiled its first-ever running shoe in April called Blissfeel, £138. The mission? To create the “best-feeling footwear,” that presumably feels as good as a pair of Lululemon’s sculpting leggings, which hug you in all the right places (and which, by the way, do last for years).
Now the brand has just followed up with a second, Chargefeel, £138, a versatile workout trainer, available in high and low top and 14 colours, designed with cross-training in mind. The trainer is suitable for running, gym workouts and running errands. Key features include a dual-density foam layering system that is supposed to deliver both the bounce you need for running and the agile support you need for training and a pressure-mapped outsole delivering traction and flexibility - so you can sprint, jump, box, lunge and plank in these bad boys.
The main point of difference in Lululemon footwear is that these are performance shoes designed specifically for women. Big deal, you might think, but hear me out. Most women’s sports shoes are designed for men and then simply shrunk down into a smaller size, however, according to the brand, women have a completely different “foot morphology,” or shape, to men, meaning their requirements from a supportive shoe when training are actually quite different.
Drawing on four years of research working with a team of biomechanics experts, using scans of more than a million female feet, and relentless rounds of wear-testing, Blissfeel launched as a women’s running shoe designed for all abilities. Chargefeel on the other hand is for any kind of workout. “Most people work out in lots of different ways, in shoes that can only handle one,” the brand says. “The majority of our guests participate in more than one sweat activity per week. We asked, what if one shoe could support them in every activity?”.
Putting Lululemon Chargefeel to the test
On first impressions, similar to the Blissfeel, the Chargefeel sneaker has a relatively pared-back design. Mine came in an asphalt grey, with the laces matching the hue of the upper and a contrasting light pink midsole. There’s a simple logo on the tongue and at the back of the shoe — it will be interesting to see if/how this design evolves as the brand expands its footwear range. Six of the shoes have higher tops and the remaining eight feature regular low tops — I've got my eye on the high tops in “highlight yellow,” which would be perfect for running when it's dark. Lululemon recommends you size up by a half if you have wider feet, I don’t, but still sized up by a full size and found the comfort and fit ideal for me — despite this, I didn’t find the shoe to be too bulky and they still felt relatively light to hold.
When we put them to the test, via a sweaty mid-heatwave workout at the shiny new Grndhouse strength studio in Paddington, I liked the way the Chargefeels cradled my foot and heel, giving me extra support. I felt steady and grounded while squatting with medium to heavy weights, with just enough spring to get me through a gruelling cardio tabata session and burpee finisher. In fact, I haven't taken them off since, wearing them to my regular gym class for the past week. I don't run that often at the moment, but am planning to run more now that summer is in full swing, so will I be swapping my regular running shoes for these? I'd probably need some more persuading to give up my super springy New Balance Fresh Foams to be honest, but I do like the versatility of the Chargefeels and the fact that I know I'll be properly supported in them while both lifting weights and running on the treadmill.
At this price point, Lululemon is going to have to compete against the aforementioned running shoe elites, but I imagine this style of workout trainer will attract loyal Lululemon customers, who use its apparel for lifestyle purposes as much as workout sessions. It will be interesting to see how it fares, too - if the durability is anywhere near those of the brand's leggings, they could be onto a winner.
The Chargefeel, £138, drops in stores and online from 26 July