Nike could continue to sell sneakers on brand recognition alone for the next century. Instead, the company has consistently chased after innovation. They licked the self-lacing shoe in 2016, more than 25 years after it was first broached in Back to the Future II. Now, Nike believes it can help athletes break marathon world records.
As WIRED reports, this week, Nike debuted the Zoom Vaporfly Elite, a running performance sneaker that could assist in surpassing the current two-hour, two minute, and 57-second world record for completing a marathon (26.2 miles). To prove it, Nike plans on equipping three athletes with the gear this spring in the hopes of getting their running time under two hours.
To do that, Nike had to focus on a three to five percent increase in running economy, which means reducing the weight of the shoe, providing better cushioning, and aiding in propulsion. The Vaporfly's sole is an inch thick, but so light that the overall shoe weighs two ounces less than their current benchmark Olympic sprinting shoe; a carbon fiber plate helps a runner’s momentum. Nike says it has spent a decade refining these elements and believes the Vaporfly will provide an opportunity to see what the physiological limit might be on running times.
Nike will see if they’ve succeeded when the world record attempt is made this spring at an auto racing track in Monza, Italy. The Zoom goes on sale to the general public in June at a suggested retail price of $250.