When a luxury shoe company boasts that its dress shoes are as comfortable as sneakers and can perform just as well, it better be able to back up its claims.
Wolf & Shepherd, a one-year-old Florida-based company founded by a former Notre Dame decathlete, silenced any doubters when 23-year-old Juris Sileniekscrossed the finish line of the Hotlanta Half Marathon on Sunday in a time of 1:17:05, winning the race and setting the unofficial Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon in dress shoes. Yes, there is such a thing. The record must be verified by Guinness before it becomes official, however.
Silenieks, a member of Syracuse University’s 2016 NCAA Championship-winning cross country team, wore a pair of honey brown leather captoe dress shoes as he covered the downtown Atlanta course at an average pace of 5:53 per mile.
“We’re not saying you should go run a half marathon in our shoes,” Wolf & Shepherd founder Justin Schneidersaid. “But you might have to run to catch the train or you might be late to a meeting and find that you need to pick up your pace a little.”
Schneider, who spent several years as a track shoe designer at Adidas after graduating from Notre Dame, set out to create his shoe line after noticing most high-end dress shoes don’t utilize some of the available technology and innovation — such as a lightweight carbon fiber shank – that athletic shoe makers use in their run shoes. Schneider said his company’s shoes weigh about 1 pound less than comparable high-end dress shoes.
“My dream was to design track spikes for sprinters,” Schneider said. “I figured that was the peak of performance shoes for athletes. I realized I was working on the pinnacle of performance for athletes, but 99% of people aren’t athletes — they’re business professionals. I then turned my attention to trying to meet the performance needs of the professional workforce.”
Regardless of the weight reduction found in Wolf & Shepherd shoes, Silenieks said the footwear, combined with his race-leading pace and the Atlanta hills left his legs feeling a bit heavy over the closing miles.
“At about Mile 6 or 7 I began to think these hills are starting to hurt,” Silenieks laughed. “But the shoes held up great. The bottoms of my feet started to get hot on the downhills and the heels burned a bit on the uphills, but overall, they were really comfortable.”
With prices ranging from $325 for loafers to $425 for calf-high boots, Schneider is targeting the high-end of the dress shoe market. A similar version of Wolf & Shepherd’s $345 captoe sold by Allen Edmonds retail for $395. Compared with a similar pair of $1,200Edward Green lace-ups, Wolf & Shepherd’s shoes are a bargain.
Schneider said he’s counting on Wall Street’s new wave of younger, athletic-savvy bankers and executives to boost sales for his upstart company.
“Our story is built around performance, around the high energy, ambitious, driven working professional,” he said. “Guys who like to perform, are very driven. We want our product to be a reflection of that. There are things from athletic shoe designs that we can use in classic dress shoes without sacrificing quality.”
After the race, Silenieks sat on the sun-baked pavement and unlaced his sweat-stained dress shoes in front of Atlanta’s World of Coca-Cola museum. He’ll keep the shoes as a memory of his record. He also received $300 for his first-place finish.