Exclusive: Rich Froning Talks Designing His Capsule Collection for Reebok
Rich Froning understands what it means to multitask.
Gym owner, four-time Fittest Man on Earth, three-time CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup Champion, husband and father, Froning’s resume is a lengthy one. The scary thing: He’s only 31 years old, so that list is sure to keep growing.
Today, Froning adds another accolade to the list: designer.
The collections includes the RF1 sneaker and three pieces of apparel: a short, a short sleeve ACTIVCHILL tee and a long sleeve ACTIVCHILL tee. The apparel is adorned with Froning’s signature logo and all items are available in only one color scheme—neutral blacks and greys, signature of the monochromatic colors we’re accustomed to seeing Froning wear on the competition floor.
CrossFit-Tested, Froning Approved
In the CrossFit community, Froning is known for both his volume of training and his intelligent decision making in competition. It was only natural for him to put this same extensive time and attention to detail into designing his collection.
It took three years to develop a collection Froning finally felt was ready to go to market.
“If I could make anything in the world that I wanted to wear, this really would be the stuff,” says Froning. “I wanted to make sure that it was stuff I would actually wear, stuff that fits my lifestyle,” says Froning.
If I could make anything in the world that I wanted to wear, this really would be the stuff.
Members of the Reebok design team who worked with Froning on the collection estimate that this gear, worn by Froning for roughly a year and a half, was probably wear-tested more than any other collection they have worked on.
“Rich trains more than almost anyone else out there,” says Tal Short, Reebok Sr. Product Manager of Footwear. “So when he tells you something holds up, you know it really holds up.”
“I’ve done upwards of 100 rope climbs in the RF1,” confirms Froning, who even wore the RF1 for a couple events in the CrossFit Games Central Regional the last two years.
He jokes that a few people on social media caught on to the fact he was competing in a yet-to-be-released shoe. He admits he “may have fueled the fire” in the comments just to have some fun, but he refused to give fans too many hints about the product until now.
When he tells you something holds up, you know it
“Rich was involved in every aspect of his capsule collection,” adds Short. “That isn’t the case with most athletes in the industry.”
“He made it really clear from the start that he didn’t want to just slap his name on something. He wanted to make this a true collaboration. He wanted to help us create what he believes are the best possible products.”
“And what’s great is that he really knows his stuff. He’s worn and tested a lot of iterations of the Nano over the years. He understands the technology and knows the vocabulary to articulate what he likes and what he doesn’t like.”
He made it really clear from the start that he didn’t want to just slap his name on something. He wanted to make this a true collaboration.
Putting His Best Shoe Forward
Speaking of the Nano, that is the shoe Froning is accustomed to training in. And he says he still plans to train in it at times, alternating between the RF1 and the Nano 8 depending on the day at hand.
What are the differences between the two sneakers?
One, Froning wanted to be able to wear his signature shoe untied. Fans will recognize this is something Froning often does with his Nano’s already, although those are intended, by design, to be tied. On the RF1, the designers included a piece of elastic that enables the shoes to be slipped on while still leaving the foot firmly locked in during workouts.
Two, Froning wanted the sole of the RF1 to be a little softer than a Nano so he could wear them all day long.
“I wanted to make sure this is a shoe you could wear for everything, you didn’t need several pairs of shoes if you wanted to train, run, hit the ropes, whatever,” he says. “And if you want to hang out or wear it out, it’s also good for that because it’s so comfortable. I’m always on my feet and this is a shoe you can stand around in for long periods of time.”
I’m always on my feet and this is a shoe you can stand around in for long periods of time.
This all day wearability and comfort is crucial to Froning. When he’s not working out and coaching, he’s chasing around his three children.
“For a long time, I was so focused on competing,” he says. “But now I have kids and they’ve shown me what’s really important, and that includes stuff outside the gym. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to compete, but it’s been nice to do some different things every once in a while.”
“The last signature shoe I did with Reebok was the Compete, which was a shoe you would only wear during competition. But now, my life is in a different place so what I need in a shoe has changed.”
“The cool thing is that there are a lot of people out there who share these same needs and are looking for the same thing in a shoe.”
“There are some hidden things on the shoes that people will have to look for,” he says. “Stuff about me, my kids, my CrossFit Games wins. It’ll be fun when people get their shoes and start to find those. They need to tell me about it on social.”
There are some hidden things on the shoes that people will have to look for.
Putting It All Together
While some of his personal details made it into the design of the shoe, Froning usually keeps it simple with his style.
“Rich is very authentic,” says Andi Archer, Reebok Sr. Product Manager of Apparel, who collaborated with Froning on designing the collection’s shorts and shirts.
“He doesn’t need a lot of excess. He can do what he can do without all the extra bells and whistles, so we wanted to make sure this collection reflected that.”
He can do what he can do without all the extra bells and whistles, so we wanted to make sure this collection reflected that.
Because he’s always in workout clothes (his words, not ours), Froning knows what he likes. Archer says that the collection is almost ‘Frankensteined’: a combination of all of the best features from Froning’s favorite Reebok apparel products from years’ past.
“I remember Rich came up to me at the Games last year and was like, ‘I need to talk to you about pocket depth,’” laughs Archer. “Talk about detail-oriented!”
“Working with Rich is a constant back-and-forth,” Archer says. “He notices the smallest features and then he’s set on improving them. You can see how he’s accomplished so much as an athlete.”
Froning’s biggest hope for the collection is for people to find it as wearable as he does. He wants people to love the gear and wear it because it’s the best, not because it has his name on it.
“I want people to actually think, ‘This is my favorite pair of shorts, favorite shoe, favorite shirt.' That’s what I’m going for. That’s success to me.”
I want people to actually think, ‘This is my favorite pair of shorts, favorite shoe, favorite shirt.'