Olivier Bernhard used to be a world-class runner – a duathlete and triathlete – until he retired from competitive sport in 2005. But in retirement, the former winner of the “Ironman Switzerland” title had problems with an Achilles tendon, and it soon became clear he had to find a solution if he wanted to continue his passion without suffering serious injury.
So the father of three started experimenting with a new kind of shoe, which involved sticking small pieces of cut up garden hose onto the soles of running shoes. The idea was to run faster and more healthily. “After just a few attempts with the prototype my problems had completely disappeared within a few weeks,” said Mr. Bernhard, who consulted a Swiss engineer over the design.
Spurred on by his success, the runner took his idea to one of the world’s biggest running shoe manufacturers. But it was rejected, with the firm saying it was mechanically impossible to realize and not economically viable.
Determined, Mr. Bernhard refused to give up. Utterly convinced of his novel sole design, he launched On Running in Zurich in 2010 with two friends, Caspar Coppetti and David Allemann, who had both worked as consultants at McKinsey.