Several companies already distinguished in the outdoor industry recently joined the running shoe market by adding performance footwear to their product lines. This year, two local companies look to accomplish a similar feat.

Both Pearl Izumi of Broomfield and La Sportiva, whose national headquarters are located in Boulder, intend to introduce lines of running footwear into the national market. They join outdoor companies North Face and Salomon, who also have expanded into footwear.

Pearl Izumi, renowned for its manufacture of cycling and performance gear, has spent the last year developing a complete set of running footwear for both men and women that includes three road shoes, one trail shoe and a unisex racing flat.

Noah Bernard, product line manager for Pearl Izumi, said the focus of the incipient line “is to eliminate anything unnecessary from the shoe” so that no overlays, seams or synthetic pieces on the shoe can cause potential problems of chafing or forefoot constriction.

Although the design of the upper is minimalist, the midsole itself contains both heel and forefoot cushioning, and in Pearl’s stability model, a dual density piece – or firmer foam – to control collapsing arches, Bernard said. The entire line should be available in stores by June 1 and will carry a retail price tag ranging from $80 to $110 per pair.

La Sportiva, an Italian company with its domestic base in Boulder, has been making climbing and mountaineering footwear since the 1920s. In 2002, La Sportiva introduced two models of mountain running shoes built on a hybrid configuration, making them suitable for both rock climbing and running.

For February 2003, however, Gary Banick, and his design team at La Sportiva, created two new shoes devised specifically for trail running. The upcoming line will differ from previous models by offering features, like increased flexibility and more cushioning, which characterize a running midsole, and therefore, a smoother ride.

Unique to Sportiva shoes is a rubberized compound called Frixion, used on the outsole of the running models, which Banick promises will provide some of the best tread available on the market. Expect retail prices between $85 and $95 per pair.

How will these new lines stand up in a market of many competitors? That’s tricky to predict, said Johnny Halberstadt, owner of the Boulder Running Company. The specialty running market is dominated by big name brands like Nike, Adidas, Asics and Brooks, and it’s difficult for companies associated in other areas of interest, like cycling and climbing, to break in.

As Halberstadt noted, people are “superstitious about brands” and are often unwilling, literally, to look outside of the box. However, the conclusive maxim for success, as Halberstadt simply states, is that “if it works well, itll be fine.”

The Boulder Running Company plans on carrying models from both Pearl Izumi and La Sportiva for summer 2003.