EYE ON INNOVATION: Converse, Nike Prove It’s Never Too Late to Innovate

Changing an icon can be risky business. Yet that’s just what Converse Inc., and its parent company Nike, are doing.

Boston-based Converse plans to release a new version of the classic Chuck Taylor shoe, or Chucks, which have been around since 1917. The new version will have more support and be lighter, using technology from design engineers at Nike.

The Chuck II, which arrives in stores next week, incorporates Lunarlon cushioning, which features a soft, yet resilient foam core that’s encased within a supportive foam carrier for lightweight, ultra-plush cushioning. Lunarlon foam, invented by Nike, is 30 percent lighter than traditional Phylon, which is normally Nike’s go-to midsole material. Lunarlon allows the force of impact to be more evenly distributed, which helps reduce painful pressure points on feet.

Simply stated, the Chuck II will be more comfortable, which may be a nod to aging baby boomers who love the counter-culture fashion statement of Converse shoes but are now seeking more comfort.

Indeed, the shoes have never been that comfortable if worn for long periods of time, although NBA stars in the ’50s and ’60s wore them, including Wilt Chamberlain, who was wearing Cons the night he scored 100 points, a record still unsurpassed.

By the way, rest assured the Lunarlon technology won’t change the look or design of the Converse shoe, and no other design changes will be noticeable.

That’s good because Chuck Taylors, which were nicknamed after a basketball player who became the company’s leading pitchman, have enjoyed a rich history, moving from basketball shoe to hipster fashion foundation and now cultural icon. As Bloomberg Business Week points out, the shoe has been a pop-culture mainstay for decades, worn by no less than JFK, the Ramones, Kurt Cobain and Miley Cyrus.

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