With the marathon world record currently standing at two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds, Nike have designed a new trainer they believe will allow runners to break the two-hour mark.
Nike have unveiled their new Zoom Vaporfly Elite, a concept shoe that will be worn by three world-class runners during the Spring Breaking2initiative who will hope to run the first sub two-hour marathon.
The continued evolution of marathon running, from the earliest runners completing the 26 miles in just under three hours, to now even attempting to break the two-hour mark has become rather inevitable.
Although this will be an incredible feat, "It’s ones of those big barriers of human potential," said the vice president of footwear innovation at Nike.
The Vaporfly Elite can be seen as Nike's response to their biggest rival, adidas' Adizero Sub2 trainer that is said to be the current world's best marathon shoe.
Nike began their pursuit of this goal in 2014, however the designers of the trainer have said they started dreaming of this product over a decade ago.
The combination of 3D knitting and cushioning technology with athletes desire to break the two-hour mark is what Nike believe is going to be the determining factor.
"We’re at a point where we now feel that we have the science,” Matthew Nurse, VP of the Nike Sports Research Lab, was quoted as saying by Wired.
What factors do Nike need to improve?
What factors do Nike have to improve if they want their trainer to make history?
Firstly, the shoe must be as light as possible whilst having a significant amount of cushioning to protect the individual's foot. Secondly, the spring and propulsion must be enough to push the runner forward, and finally the style of shoe must remain comfortable for the totality of the race.
The Vaporfly Elite only weighs around seven ounces, which is two ounces lighter than their previous Olympic sprinting shoe.
The clever technology, however, is found in the sole. An ultra thin, lightweight carbon fibre plate which is essential used in propelling the runner forward. They have often been found in sprinting shoes, however is unique to a marathon trainer and will hopefully help when making that small difference needed to beat the record.
“Strength doesn’t remain constant over the course of a marathon,” says Benno Nigg, a biomechanics expert at the University of Calgary in Canada. Therefore, it will be those moments when power is needed that will really help these runners.
The runners who will be testing these shoes are: Zersenay Tadese, the half-marathon world record holder, Lelisa Desisa, a two-time Boston Marathon winner; and Eliud Kipchoge, a champion at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Each pair of shoes is tailored to match the athletes strengths and their stride length, allowing for tailored fit that will help each runner attempt to achieve this goal. "That is the difficult thing, if they have solved that, then they have solved something really good,” said Nigg.
Coupled with the lightweight plates is this innovative new foam that surround the plate and helps with spring, comfort and propulsion.
The Nike Vaporfly 4% and the Zoom fly's will go on sale to the general public for $250 and $150 respectively and will allow for those at home to attempt this feat for themselves.
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