‘Retro Runner Rehab’ is a column where we bungee into the world of bygone running shoes, scoop up our favourites and throw them back in the spotlight. Given that there are so many discontinued running models with extra mileage left in them that you could line them up heel-to-toe and you’d have a distance Forrest Gump wouldn’t want to run, it looks like we won’t be checking out of rehab anytime soon.
Usain Bolt lacing up in PUMAs made the big cat the most visible brand on the world’s biggest stage – the Olympics – during its most coveted event. But laces weren’t always the answer for the PUMA. Rewind 25 years and brand were far from running the show. In ’91 their diminutive one percent command of the athletic shoe market had them grasping for a new solution. The president of PUMA USA at the time, John O’Rourke, was even quoted by the Philadelphia press as saying ‘I’m looking for something to put some wind in our sail. We’ve been windless for a while.’ It sounds grim, but PUMA were about to make their most important step on the road from zero to hero, a step that would be made in the Disc System XC 6000.
The Disc System put PUMA on the map. The brand was the first to dabble with lace-less sneakers through the late 60s to early 70s via Velcro, but the 90s were kind to punchy technological gimmickry. Reebok was Pumped up, Nike was walking on Air and to compete, PUMA created the Disc System to ‘Turn it On’.
The Disc Blaze might be the poster child for the retractable wire system now, but the XC 6000 has us itching our forearms for a retro because it blazed the trail that the predecessor walks today. There was one other counterpart – the XS 7000 – which many are quick to name as the first runner to don the Disc. However just with lace-less systems there can be no ties, and all info we can secure from the higher ups at PUMA points to the XC being the first on the scene.
‘Here first’ squabbles aside, the XC 6000 deserves another run if for nothing more than its brazen colourway. In 2016 – when we practically fetishize the heroically gaudy 90s palate – the XC with its pops of pink on the sock-liner and Disc, bold blue graphics and red underfoot glow would crush it. PUMA could even release the shoe with its translucent structural supports slightly yellowed as our pair’s have done with age.
In fact, PUMA are already dallying with similar colour schemes. Their recent ‘Safety Green’ Disc Blaze reveled in nostalgia, and people went nuts for the Graphers Rock Disc Blaze colab because it did the same with less restraint. Add to that the XC 6000’s unique Disc System which favours a push-button release instead of the pull tab featured on the Disc Blaze, and we say PUMA would have one retro runner that would go the distance.