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How are your 2021 resolutions going? Are you still working towards your fitness goals? 

Despite the frigid February temps, a good pair of shoes can motivate you. We’re convinced (due to our unscientific studies) that new shoes make your run faster and jump higher. Well, that may not be completely true, but a good pair of shoes can help your performance and prevent injury. 

When it comes to shoes, there are some big names in the athletic world — Nike, Adidas, and New Balance, to name a few — but we’ve got some new shoe brands hot on their heels that we think you need to know about.

In this episode of Products Worth Talking About, we’ll look into what we feel is the David and Goliath of functional fitness footwear: Nike vs. NOBULL. Obviously, Nike is one of the most respected and well-established brands when it comes to fitness, but does NOBULL present a formidable challenge?

Today, we’ll be examining two shoes — Nike’s Metcon 6 (Men’s) and NOBULL’s Men’s Trainer (Men’s) — and judge them by these criteria: 

  • Comfort 
  • Durability
  • Support
  • Aesthetics 

We’ll also dive into the companies’ backgrounds and determine how NOBULL is breaking into the functional fitness market. Lastly, we’ll share some final takeaways about the brands and lessons that we plan to apply to our own businesses — Vortic Watches and REBL Jane

But before we get into all that, we have a few honorable footwear mentions we’d like to share!

Some Functional Fitness Honorable Mentions

Nike and NOBULL took the stage for this episode, but they aren’t the only products worth talking about when it comes to men’s athletic footwear!

YORK Athletics 

YORK Athletics makes high-quality unisex footwear built to perform with a minimalist aesthetic, making their shoes versatile for any occasion. The YORK family has been manufacturing quality sportswear since 1946, but they delved into the footwear industry in 2016. You can find The Henry Sweatshirt shoe — one of our favorites — on their website or Amazon for $120. 

APL

Standing for “Athletic Propulsion Lab,” APL is a fitness brand founded in March 2009 by identical twins — Adam and Ryan Goldston. As former collegiate athletes, the brothers created the company to make revolutionary products symbolizing the intersection of luxury and performance. 

Interesting fact —  APL created the first shoe to be banned by the NBA for providing the wearer with “an undue competitive advantage” because of their Load N’ Launch Technology. After some more consideration and examination of the shoe, the NBA later claimed that the ban should be lifted. Still, that’s a pretty baller legacy.  

RT personally wears his APL shoes 24/7, but we didn’t think they had the competitive edge to go up against Nike and NOBULL. You can grab a pair on Amazon for $230.00. 

Nike Metcon 6 Product Review and Company Background

Product Review

Let’s start with the brand that everyone knows about — Nike. 

Nike’s Metcon 6 is obviously built for CrossFit. It contains a protective layer for climbing ropes, mesh fabric for breathability, and a supportive platform for lifting weights. It also comes with Hyperlift inserts to raise up the back of the shoe, which helps with squatting. 

As the sixth generation of the Metcon, the shoe design has definitely been well-designed for any functional fitness athlete. Let’s see how it holds up against our criteria.

  • Comfort: The Metcon 6 is not a shoe that you’re going to want to wear around the town. It’s specifically built for working out in the gym or competing in a CrossFit competition. We both gave it a 7 — when RT was trying it out on the treadmill at an incline, he said that the toe of the shoe was pinching him a little bit. For running, they may not be the best shoe; however, for lifting, they’re awesome.
  • Durability: When you’re a CrossFit athlete, your shoes are going to endure some wear and tear. This is what the Metcon 6 was designed for. There’s added protection to keep the shoe from wearing down, and the rope climbing layer is especially strong. We both rated the durability between 8 and 9. 
  • Support: When you’re in these shoes, you feel locked in place — but in a good way. Tyler gave it a 10 for support, while RT gave it a 9 because he wasn’t used to the feel of the Hyperlift inserts. 
  • Aesthetics: Coming in 11 different color-combinations (with a choice to design your own!), the Metcon 6 is a great looking shoe. You can choose solid black for a sleek look, or if you want to stand out at your next CrossFit competition, you could opt for a splash of teal. Tyler gave the shoes a 9 for aesthetics, while RT gave it a 7 (he’s partial to NOBULL’s aesthetics which we’ll cover later in the article)

Pricing 

Interested in using Metcon 6s for your next CrossFit competition? You can buy a pair for $130 ($150 if you want to customize) on Nike’s website with free shipping! Currently, you can get a pair on Amazon for only $120. 

Company Background 

Named after the Greek goddess of victory, Nike was founded in 1972 by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. If you haven’t read the book Shoe Dog, we highly recommend you check it out — it’s Phil Knight’s memoir on building Nike from an intrepid startup to an international symbol of fitness. 

As of February 2021, Nike has almost 92,000 employees, and they are based in Oregon. They’re a public company, worth around $182 billion. In 2020, they received a total of 37 billion in revenue, and they’re currently trading at $143 a share. To say that they’re a Goliath is extremely accurate — Nike is massive. 

From a marketing perspective, Nike does an incredible job with new product launches and especially with innovation. Every year, they’re coming out with a new type of technology to give athletes the tools they need to succeed. And with all the new disruptive technology from their competitors, this pressure has only increased, and Nike is rising to the challenge.

NOBULL Trainer Product Review and Company Background

Product Review

Can David defeat Golitah in this episode of Products Worth Talking About? While Nike is currently the behemoth of the fitness footwear industry, NOBULL is rising up to the challenge. 

Similar to Nike, NOBULL manufactures shoes that fit a variety of athletic needs, including trainers, running shoes, and cycling shoes for both men and women. For this episode, we reviewed their trainer shoe, which you would use for a similar purpose as the Metcon 6. 

The NOBULL Trainer is made with SuperFabric®, which is an extremely durable, breathable, and abrasion-resistant material. They also contain SuperFabric guard plates, which create “a 360-degree shield from zombies, rope climbs, and excuses.” 

Who doesn’t want a zombie apocalypse shoe? We’ve been looking for one forever, and we finally found it — 10/10 for zombie prevention. 

  • Comfort: Comfort-wise, we both agreed that the NOBULL Trainer was superior to the Metcon 6 because you can definitely wear these shoes around town. You probably don’t want to run in them, but if you want to wear them around the house or to the store, you’ll  enjoy the comfort they provide! The only negative is that you don’t want to wear these shoes walking at steady incline since they may pinch your toes a little bit. Tyler gave them a 9 for comfort, while RT gave them a 7. 
  • Durability: In the past, Tyler’s NOBULL Trainers have lasted for about two years — which is a good amount of time for a shoe you’re using for CrossFit or lifting. These shoes are also very easy to wipe clean, and the SuperFabric® definitely gives them a durability advantage. Tyler gave them an 8 for durability, while RT gave them a complete 10!
  • Support: Comparing them to the Metcon, Tyler gave the NOBULL Trainers a 6 for support. They are more flexible, so it may be harder to park yourself in place. RT disagreed, saying that they were the most supportive shoes he’s ever worn, giving them a 9. 
  • Aesthetics: NOBULL’s aesthetics are perhaps the biggest thing that sets them apart from other footwear brands. For the NOBULL Trainers, they offer 11 color choices, but it’s more like 40 because they alternate them with limited releases as well. They also have floral, camo, and other eye-catching patterns for those who want to get noticed at the gym. When we bought the shoes for this episode, we couldn’t buy just one pair — we got five, and honestly, we have no regrets. With each shoe, they also give you two different sets of laces so there’s even more customizability available. We both gave NOBULL a solid 9 for aesthetics.

Pricing

You can snag a pair of NOBULL Men’s Trainers for $129 on their website ($1 less than Nike’s Metcon 6 — which is hilarious). Every dollar counts, right? You can also grab them on Amazon with free shipping.  

Company Background

Founded by Michael Schaefer and Marcus Wilson in 2014, NOBULL is a relatively new company based in Boston that’s disrupting the functional footwear industry. On LinkedIn, they have 68 listed employees, which is crazy when you compare that to Nike’s 92,000. 

Their marketing strategy is brillant — they’ve got a podcast, TV show, and their website does a phenomenal job explaining their products in an eye-catching way. In November 2019, They raised $5 million in venture capital. That may not sound like much compared to Nike’s billions, but despite the discrepancy, they are still having a huge impact. 

NOBULL Breaking into the Competitive Market of Functional Fitness Footwear 

How is a company like NOBULL, with significantly less funding and employees, proving to be a formidable challenge to Nike’s authority in the market? 

For starters, the SuperFabric® is an impressive technology that sets NOBULL apart, along with their bright array of colors, eye-catching patterns, and additional shoe laces. The limited editions options also create a sense of urgency — you better grab them before they go away, which equates to more sales. These unique selling propositions (USPs) make all the difference when it comes to the footwear industry.

In addition to their USPs, NOBULL saw a huge need for a CrossFit shoe in 2014, and they provided that solution. Riches are truly in the niches when it comes to the athletic industry. And rather than having a retail store, NOBULL opted for the direct-consumer method — shipping their products directly to consumers to save time, money, and hassle. 

Lastly, NOBULL’s marketing strategy is air-tight. They send engaging marketing emails to their subscribers, and their podcast and TV platforms are stellar ways to increase awareness about their brand. 

Will NOBULL put Nike out of business? Probably not, and we’re guessing that’s not their motive. They’re going to hit a point where it’s difficult to scale much more, so we both think they’re probably looking for an acquisition from a larger company. 

Conclusion and Takeaways

So, did David beat Goliath in this episode of Products Worth Talking About? In every category besides durability, the NOBULL Trainers took the prize as the best trainer shoe for functional fitness and CrossFit (at least in our opinion). 

On Products Worth Talking About, our mission is to not only give you reliable information on disruptive products but also give you valuable insight into what makes great businesses successful! In this episode, we both had several takeaways that we plan to apply to our own businesses. 

  • The Value of the Direct-Consumer Model: Retail stores are great, but in this day and age when people are buying their products online more than ever, the direct-to-consumer model is financially beneficial and less of a hassle. 
  • Find Your Niche: NOBULL was a great example of finding a specific niche in the athletic industry and fulfilling a need. If you start out too broad, you’ll never stand a chance against the behemoth companies already established in your space. Instead, we recommend finding a specific problem and providing that solution through your business. 
  • Limited Editions: Limited editions are a great way to cause excitement about your product as well as a sense of urgency. 
  • Email Marketing: To increase awareness and loyalty to your brand, you have to be willing to play the long-game, which includes reaching customers through engaging emails. Plus, email marketing is very low-cost, and it has the potential to provide great results. The larger the email list, the more power you have in your market. 

We were both really impressed with NOBULL, and hopefully, we’ll be able to interview their founders in the future! Of course, Nike is an incredible company and brand as well, and the Metcon 6 is a phenomenal shoe, especially if you need extra support. 

We hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you learned something today, we would love to hear from you. Take a screenshot of the episode and share your greatest takeaways with us on Instagram, @productsworthtalkingabout. And if you love the show, make sure to subscribe on YouTube so that you can get new content delivered to you directly! Let us know what products and brands you want us to review!

Lastly, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to build a product-based business, check out our business plan that literally writes itself! Within no time, you’ll be ready to pitch to investors and start the company of your dreams.

Thanks for reading! Until next time—

RT and Tyler 

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