At Brooks, we are always thinking about what’s next in the running world. So to help us, we built the NEXT lab. Check out Tim Newcomb’s Sports Illustrated Article to see his behind the scenes view of the NEXT Lab. Our lab is defined by the overarching goal of making the run better, faster, safer, more comfortable and—most importantly—more fun for runners!
With the move into our new HQ, we built a new lab for ourselves. We’ve talked about how every detail of our new building was intentional; this wonderland lab is no exception. We incorporated special touches such as a raised floor that accommodates a force plate to simulate over-ground running; black-out windows to enhance our 3D motion-capture space; and write-on walls throughout the lab to foster collaboration and creative thinking—and the occasional game of tic-tac-toe.
The new NEXT lab is spacious enough to allow a runner to comfortably reach their maximum speed as we collect their biomechanics over ground (versus on an instrumented treadmill). But there are times where we want that fancy treadmill, too, so we just added one that collects a runner’s impact force on the ground and can also incline/decline to help us understand how our body adapts to running on uneven surfaces.
Our lab is like a toy store for gear geeks—so many fun things to play with! Our equipment has lead us to develop new technologies and concepts. Here are a few highlights from our bag of tricks:
- A thermal imaging camera that maps your body heat as you warm up, so we can observe your skin’s heat release and better understand how to construct and design performance apparel.
- Instrumented treadmills that collect how much force you apply to the ground.
- 3D motion-capture cameras to track your body’s position and its movement.
- A high speed camera observing how the runner impacts the ground and how the shoe reacts in turn.
- A foot scanner.
- A metabolic cart which informs us how much energy you are expending while running.
- Electromyography sensors that record the electrical signal in the muscle, telling us how much force that muscle is applying while running.
One of the coolest items in the lab by far, my personal favorite, is the rapid prototyping machine, also called the RP machine. This beast is used to quickly fabricate a scale model or parts of the bottom tooling of the shoe using 3D computer software.
Ultimately, we strive to develop amazing products that are adaptive to an individual’s needs and ultimately help each runner be the best version of themselves. Our process is extensive. For every shoe we create, we go through great lengths to ensure they are performing their absolute best! That means multiple rounds of testing: biomechanical, material, wear testing and outside wear testing.
With all the testing we do in the NEXT lab people ask what wins? Runner feedback? Or findings from our cool gear? The answer is: runner insight, hands down. Remember, our lab exists to help make the run better, faster, safer and more comfortable. Long live Running Happy!