During the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, we had a chance to test out a new way to get the coveted runDisney New Balance shoes!
In 2013, New Balance and runDisney began a partnership that included shoes with a Disney twist. There was a Mickey-inspired men’s shoe and a Minnie-inspired women’s shoe. Both shoes were New Balance’s 860v3 model, which is a stability shoe. They were first unveiled during Marathon Weekend, where they sold out in a matter of hours. Each runDisney Health & Fitness Expo throughout 2013 offered these shoes for those interested.
Since those first releases, runDisney and New Balance have continued to partner for new shoe designs each year. From characters to attractions, there have been many options to choose from!
Before Marathon Weekend, runDisney stated that there would be a virtual queue at the Expo. We were able to give this new experience a try when we arrived at the Expo EARLY on Wednesday morning.
**Note: After the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, New Balance implemented an online virtual queue option for runners with a valid bib number for the weekend’s races. Runners can go online the night prior to the Expo opening to sign up for their appointment, essentially skipping the lines at the Expo as we experienced during Marathon Weekend (and have explained below). You will receive a text when it is your time to head to the New Balance booth at the Expo and it will follow a similar format to what we have explained below. (More information can be found at nbvirtualqueue.com.)
Upon entering ESPN Wide World of Sports, we followed the New Balance shoes on the ground. Even 2 hours before the Expo was supposed to open, a line was already beginning to form in front of Champion Stadium.
The Expo ended up opening early (around 9 AM), where we were led into Champion Stadium. Here New Balance representatives manned computer stations where you entered your name and cell phone number. We were told that when it was our turn, we would receive a text and would have 20 minutes to get to the booth for our “appointment”.
Since we had gotten in line so early, our text came within 15 minutes. Instead of following the normal entrance into the Josten’s Center, we were told to go down the stairs (there was New Balance signage) and be led directly into the New Balance booth. Along the way, we had to show our text message to multiple New Balance representatives, ensuring we actually had a legit appointment! (**Note: This is where the new online queue becomes the same as what we experienced.)
Before entering the booth, we gave our confirmation number to the New Balance reps in front of the booth, where they checked us off the list. We then entered the land of chaos. The virtual queue did only allow so many shoppers in the booth at once, but it was clear that these shoes were a VERY hot item!
It was around 9:40 AM when we started trying on shoes for ourselves. (Keep in mind, the Expo was not supposed to open until 10:00 AM, and we were one of the first groups into the booth.) Megan was told that a size 7 in men’s for the Goofy shoe was already sold out! We do not understand how this was even possible, but the rep did tell her that they were holding some shoes back for later days in the Expo. Considering how early it was, they did find her a pair on the truck.
The representatives were very helpful as we tried on various sizes. (Note: The Cinderella shoes did run a half size small.) Along with the shoes, there was other merchandise available, including shirts that matched the personality of the shoes, as well as shoe inserts specific to the race weekend. The shoe inserts were pushed quite frequently, although we personally don’t understand them since they go INSIDE your shoe and no one will ever see them.
For Marathon Weekend, each person could purchase 4 adult shoes and 2 kids shoes. And many people did.
As for availability, New Balance announced that they were better prepared this year. However, we disagree. By 11 AM on Wednesday, the virtual queue had already been closed. Throughout the weekend (starting on Thursday), New Balance was already stating that certain sizes were sold out.
However, the virtual queue was a nice option. It allowed us to explore the Expo and pick up our packets while waiting for our text message that it was our time to get shoes. Yet being there early made a huge difference – we heard at different times throughout the weekend that the line to just sign up was hours long!
We are very interested to see how New Balance and runDisney handle the obvious popularity of the shoes at upcoming Expos. It is very common for the first Expos to have the biggest draw as the shoes are new.