American runners can now access comfortable, lightweight and responsive footwear that will give them a feeling of empowerment. That’s the way University of Mary Washington alum Mike Ambrose ’11 describes the Salomon Ultra Glide. The technologically advanced shoe he conceived and helped design hit the market this month.
“I want people to feel like they can fly,” said Ambrose, who started trail running for fun at Mary Washington. Now, as Salomon’s lead product line manager for trail running, his life revolves around it. An ultra-race runner who lives in France, Ambrose used a degree in psychology to build a pioneering career, designing footwear that crosses continents and climbs into your mind.
“I wanted runners to feel like they could run forever, whatever the distance,” Ambrose said. “Rationally, I wanted the shoe to feel soft, but not lose stability, precision and grip.”
Shortly after graduating from Mary Washington, Ambrose – who grew up in suburban New Jersey – found himself on a new trail, one that led westward, for a job selling running shoes in Colorado. In his free time, he ran 50- and 100-mile more-than-marathon races, known as “ultrarunning.”
A fan of Salomon, Ambrose loved talking about the footwear to his fellow trail runners. His in-depth knowledge of the product and insight into the running industry led to jobs with the company’s offices in Massachusetts and Utah.
When Salomon’s global headquarters in Europe decided to focus on appealing specifically to North American customers, they sought Ambrose’s unique perspective to develop shoes.
“You know that feeling when you feel like you can go anywhere, you feel like you can do anything?” Ambrose told trail-running resource IRunFar.com this summer. “That’s the best feeling in the world. I think that’s what I aspire for all trail runners to do and feel.”
In addition to conceptualizing state-of-the-art shoes, he said, his life revolves around running. And what a Iife! He lives with his wife, Stephanie Lefferts ’11, in Annecy, France, a charming alpine village with cobbled streets, winding canals and pastel-colored houses … and spends his spare time scaling the French Alps.
His college years, Ambrose said, were “stimulating and engaging,” and helped him move mountains. “Everyone made me think and challenged me to be the best I could be.”
His advice? Follow your heart and never stop dreaming. “There will be setbacks and frustrations, but just keep fighting.”