The RW Takeaway: Here comes the new shoe on the block. The Lululemon Blissfeel isn’t a cross-trainer for gym workouts and short jogs. It has a mix of comfort and responsiveness you’ll appreciate from a daily trainer.
- Developers studied men’s and women’s biomechanics, but built the Blissfeel specifically for women
- A neutral trainer with moderate cushioning and high rebound
- Some testers wanted more arch support
Weight: 8.9 oz (women’s size 7)
Drop: 9.5 mm
Jeff Dengate, RW’s Runner-in-Chief, was pushing Lululemon’s Blissfeel on me like a used car salesman when we got it in for testing in October. “You should give it a run,” he enthused. “My wife really likes it.”
It’s not like a lifestyle brand introducing a training shoe is something new. It’s even been done well. The Allbirds Dasher and Cole Haan ZeroGrand Outpace 2 were well-received by our wear-testers and, yet, I was still wary of testing out an athleisure brand’s first crack at a running shoe, especially one known for introducing the yoga pant.
A Yoga and Run Company
Yoga was always at the forefront of Lululemon’s product campaign since its founding in Vancouver in 1998. Running took a backseat even with events like the annual SeaWheeze Half Marathon and Festival (now virtual) featuring pop-up yoga classes onsite.
Now, the brand is approaching runners with renewed vigor. Last year, Lululemon launched its Global Run collection and began a sponsorship with Olympian steeplechaser Colleen Quigley. On the development side, the company plucked Heather Pieraldi from France, where she worked as head of running development for Salomon.
On a video call with Pieraldi, who’s been in the running shoe biz for over 30 years, and Lululemon’s VP of product creation Mark Oleson, Oleson joked how he lured Pieraldi to leave her “beautiful home in France” to become the company’s footwear executive in Portland, Oregon, with the promise of the city’s finest tacos. With its team assembled, it was obvious Lululemon was reentering the running space with gravitas.
Constructed for Women
For us, proof is in how the shoe actually runs. Once I finally tugged on the Blissfeel, I put my fears of slogging in a slapdash tennis shoe disguised as a running shoe. It hugged my foot, was flexible, and had a slight snap, which made me feel swift as I accelerated on my usual six-mile route. I was sold and joined Dengate in his sales pitch, telling anyone who would listen that they should give the Blissfeel a college try.
The shoe isn’t flashy—our test samples were black and white, which made it easier to keep them secret for so many months of testing—nor is it equipped with high-tech materials that would appeal to speed racers. It’s a moderately cushioned every day running shoe, one that I found myself grabbing for both easy runs and some workouts.
“It's not an exciting shoe—it’s pretty basic compared to today’s extra foam, mixed material, and wild colors,” said RW photo director Amy Wolff, who compared the Blissfeel to the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus, a cushioned workhorse of a trainer. “It’s also not a shoe you have to break in or get used to. I think that’s a good thing. They played it smart.”
The midsole is a single layer of thick foam, and the outsole is made of a soft, blown rubber in the forefoot and more durable rubber in the heel. The upper is breathable and flexible, with a molded heel collar that sits quite low on the ankle. Hidden in its simple construction is women-specific geometry.
Sports bra support, for example, is a common thread. Oleson, who was previously on Lululemon’s research and development team, studied breast motion and how it caused soft tissue vibration, affecting whole-body feel and sensation. This influenced how the footwear development team created the Blissfeel. They also considered the different biomechanics between men and women.
“[There is a] different center of balance,” said Oleson. “Center of mass is different. Q angles are different. Widths are different. How do these things play into the DNA of what a running shoe could be?”
Oleson held up the Blissfeel’s last so I could see it’s angles and curves up close on my screen. As he rotated the shoe form in his hand, Pieraldi described the small details that make this shoe intended for women runners.
“The heel angle is at an eight-degree,” she explained. “It’s conducive for a woman’s heel-strike, whereas a man’s is generally around 15 degrees.”
Wear-tester feedback was divisive. One said the trainer had too little arch support and was more suitable as a walking shoe or gym shoe. Others described the Blissful as a standard neutral running shoe.
Another tester described the cushion and support as just right for longer runs. “This is my first time getting back into running longer distances after an injury and I had no pain or discomfort during my training runs,” she said. “I feel I was able to build up my mileage and increase my pace with the comfort and cushioning of the shoes.”
This tracks with my own experience running in the Blissfeel. As I was training for a race, I reached for this pair on long run days when I wanted my mind to wander and enjoy the run, rather than focus on my speed. Because of their lightweight and moderate cushioning, I could go fast without wrecking my body.
“At the end of a run,” said Oleson, “it’s mostly the rest of the body that kind of defines how much you loved that run. It’s not just your feet.”
The shoe is now available at shop.lululemon.com and in select stores. The Chargefeel, a cross-trainer, and Restfeel, a recovery sandal, will be released in the summer.