Olympic Games shine a light on new Nike running shoe technologies



The Tokyo 2020 Olympics was reason enough for Nike to launch a new line of elite running products. The one-year delay of the event allowed Nike not only to expand and upgrade the line of footwear for running and track and field athletes, but also to bring many new technologies to the lines of retail.

“We were definitely ready to compete in the 2020 Olympics,” said Brett Holts, vice president of footwear innovation for the Oregon-based company. “Now we are more ready for 2021. It has given us extra time for additional models. ”

Traditionally, Nike Running has synchronized its tech releases with the Olympics, but engineering doesn’t always match the relativity of retail. That all changed for this Olympic cycle, starting in 2017 when Nike launched the Breaking2 effort to focus on helping marathoners break through the two hour barrier. This investment and engineering was first applied to the Nike Vaporfly models up to the Vaporfly Next% 2020 and is now manifested in both the ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 and the Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2 with an emphasis on technology underfoot with energy return.

“We used to be so obsessed with shaving grams and making super light shoes, and that’s still important, but what runners need is more energy return to keep going and reduce the stress. fatigue that sets in, ”says Rachel Bull, Nike Running senior footwear product. director. “We were able to take a shoe from 2017 in the Vaporfly and apply that concept and improve running economy.”

The most updated Vaporfly model uses ZoomX foam for what the brand calls a light, responsive feel, a full-length hinged carbon fiber plate, and a higher stack height for energy transfer. . The upper, updated last year, features technical mesh with enhanced durability.

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These underfoot concepts led to a mix of shoe options for Nike athletes in Tokyo, including the ZoomX Dragonfly for long distances on the track. “It’s the same ZoomX foam, the same idea of ​​improving race economy and energy return for long distances,” explains Bull.

Zoom Air, ZoomX foam and a carbon fiber plate come together in the track-specific Air Zoom MaxFly, a sprint tip designed for 100 meters to 400 meters with a stiffer carbon fiber plate. The peak was created within the past year. The Air Zoom Victory offers a mid-range crampon with plates, foam and air while the Air Zoom Long Jump Elite, another all-new creation, places a larger airbag in the forefoot for more protection during the takeoff, but still with a carbon fiber plate for show jumping events. The Air Zoom Superfly Elite 2 is designed for sprinters and hurdlers.

All models are available at retail and currently feature the Tokyo “Rawdacious” colorway that mixes pink, orange and crimson.

Holts says that as Nike prioritized the Breaking2 project, designers learned the importance of energy return and began to bundle existing technologies, such as carbon fiber and Zoom Air, into one engineering modern to maintain lightweight designs that enhance athletes’ ability to stay fresher for longer at their maximum speed and efficiency. “It was this paradigm shift for us that was unlocked and all the other companies followed suit,” he says.

The new, elite-level approach translates easily into retail. “Five years ago, only elite runners ran in running shoes, called running shoes because they were so minimal,” says Bull. “It was intimidating to wear a 26.2 mile race dish for most people.” Now, Vaporfly has enough protection for consumers to wear the models for all levels of racing.

Nike has extended the concepts to traditional retail lines such as the Pegasus and the new ZoomX Invincible Run, released in 2020, which uses the same foam to make running “super inviting for someone who isn’t an athlete. elite but who wants the extra protection, “says Taurus.

“If we make the right decisions and create the right products for all runners, it will ultimately help the business grow,” says Holts. “We stay really focused on the athletes and create the best, most versatile and most inclusive products. We charge our innovation for athletics biggest moment, the Olympics, but spend most of our time obsessed with the everyday runner, using many of those same ingredients more suited to everyone’s running. days.

Key moments of the Nike Olympic run

• When Nike was unofficially launched in 1971, this led to the Nike Cortez‘s “waffle outsole” seen at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

• Middle distance runner Mary Decker used a Nike shoe in 1980 that featured a mold of her foot and became the development model for the next Zoom series. One version of the shoe won the brand’s very first gold medal.

• The brand’s first full-length spike plate, the Zoom Ultra, won Carl Lewis four gold medals at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

• Joan Benoit Samuelson became the first woman to win gold in the Olympic marathon in 1984. She wore Nike shoes.

• Michael Johnson set records with a gold tip designed by Tobie Hatfield at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The color was vivid, but it also featured lightweight technology.

• During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Nike unveiled Flywire, a technology that then covered basketball and performance sports.

• The use of color came to life in 2012 when Nike’s bright yellow Volt conquered London, but it was Flyknit technology that brought a new fit and changed Nike’s design in terms of performance and style. life.


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