Jogging in stride with Buffett

November 21, 2013, 12:39 PM UTC
Weber says his company understands why people run.
Photo: Brian Smale

Brooks running CEO Jim Weber recently spoke with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky about why his hot sneaker company is a perfect fit for Berkshire Hathaway.

Fortune: Brooks Running has 100,000 followers on Twitter. How do you use social media?

Jim Weber: Running is a community. If you’re looking for a great trail in New York City because you just landed, social networks are where runners gather to share information and stories. It’s absolutely critical for us to be involved in those conversations. And we don’t use them to sell products.

Nike has loudly promoted its iPhone apps and FuelBand. Where’s your fancy digital technology?

We’re partnered with MapMyFitness, the largest community of runners using applications to track and log the fitness and running lifestyle.

At Brooks you stress health and wellness as much as sport. What’s the difference?

Running is unique because there are a lot of runners who compete with themselves to set a personal record in the next race. But most of us run just to have a full life — physically and mentally. We run to stay in shape, be healthy, eat what we want, and even have an occasional beverage.

You boast that your shoes are engineered to be better than those of Nike or Asics. How so?

A lot of aspects come into a great shoe, but a crucial one is cushioning in the midsole. The midsole has to do a whole lot of things. It has to dampen and cushion on impact. It has to transition. And then it has to “firm up” and “toe off.” We created a technology called DNA that is a fluid compound. Under a light load it is cushioning and soft, but on impact it firms up at the molecular level. It gives runners a base to create stability and then transitions onto their next stride. We’ve just been granted a patent for it.

Brooks is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. What’s the “Warren Buffett” shoe?

Prolific runners, athletes, and celebrities have sold a lot of shoes in our industry over the years. Warren gave us the okay to put his image on a shoe to be sold at Berkshire’s annual meeting. We thought that’d be a lot of fun.

It’s tough to picture Warren Buffett as an avid runner. How does he relate to Brooks?

We’re not chasing any competitor. We’ve got a unique brand, and we’ve got a moat around that brand. We’ve always thought about it that way. We are nicely profitable, and we have great returns on capital. That’s a great profile for a consumer brand at Berkshire, and they own a wide variety of them. We check a lot of the boxes that typically Warren has respected.

This story is from the December 09, 2013 issue of Fortune.