Laufschuhe Lunge - © Andreas Schwarz

High-tech shoes from a cowshed

Lunge GmbH from Mecklenburg winning battle against cheap Asian giants

The shop, “Lunge – Der Laufladen“, near the station in Hamburg-Barmbek resembles sneaker shops all over the globe with Nike, adidas, Asics and other brands in bright colours and cool advertising everywhere. At first glance, most shoes seem to fit the pattern, but a closer look reveals their countries of origin e.g. Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Korea. However, six among them have been manufactured by Lunge Lauf- und Sportschuhe GmbH in Düssin, a village in Mecklenburg in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. Ulf and Lars Lunge, owners of the shop, are brothers and both successful distance runners. When it comes to shoe production, the duo is keeping an eye on three new trends.

Regionally-made running shoes

“We were never afraid of big companies,” said Lars Lunge who opened the shop in Barmbek with his brother in 1979 followed by the Manufaktur auf dem Land company in 2007. Yet, the idea of sports shoes from Mecklenburg seemed quite bold, faced with a global industry that mass-produces in Asia. “Ten years ago, 'Sports shoes from the cowshed’ was a nice story, but difficult in practical terms. It was like an uphill marathon with only one rule of thumb: 'Keep going. Do not lose track.’ At the time, we improved our production and set up a strong brand,” said Lunge.

Regional shoes for everyone

The company has been able to shoulder investments, but without earning much. Now, as demand rises, a turning point has been reached. Lunge aims to grow “the world’s smallest shoe factory” 10 per cent.

The “cowshed” is an outbuilding on an estate between Boizenburg und Ludwigslust. Around 30 people from the sparsely populated region toil there at cutting-edge, computer-supported machines and at sewing machines. “We do that to live up to our dream of making the best-possible shoes. Comfort shoes is the fastest-growing segment and not just for marathon runners. The target group also includes all those people who work on their feet in restaurants or who are out and about exploring a city. ”City hiking will take us forward,” said Lunge, who has seen many a trend come and go.

Function and design

Growth goes hand in hand with new aspirations. At first, Lunge shoes were well-made, functional footwear. Emphasis is now on design. The company is at the forefront of booming local production trending towards technology and not simply food or handmade crafts, says Lunge. Regional products are in demand and sustainability is a top, feasible priority. “Almost any kind of specialist knowledge can be found on the internet and can be learned with a bit of effort. The idea counts.“

Local start-ups focusing on innovative processes

Ulf, an economist, and Lars, a precision-engineer have set up a Production 4.0-related company with intelligent networking and robot technology that reacts swiftly and affordably to customers’ wishes. The duo has no wish to stop at production and also hope to set up a “think tank” to help e.g. other shoe fashion labels launch on the market.

And the Lunge brothers are far more knowledgeable than some giants in the sector. Toiling away in the cowshed has taught them a lesson or two about sewing uppers and soles together – unlike their counterparts in Asia apparently who glue them together. However, their battle is paying off as more and more consumers opt for their sustainable, but slightly more expensive shoes.

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