In February of 2012 Adidas held a global media event in NYC to unveil its brand new “boost” technology. This boost mid-sole foam was going to not only revolutionize the running shoe industry but improve performance for all athletes. Especially the marathoners. This material was heralded as the next great advancement in the sport and one that was going to propel a human to a sub 2-hour marathon.
Adidas changed the game. At the time, boost was revolutionary. This exciting, new material was the most responsive, bouncy material on the market. The Adidas Boost became the shoe that every front of the pack hopeful had to have. The reason this is important is because today the running world is acting like shoe companies haven’t been trying to improve the performance of their athletes before the creation of the Nike 4%. The very nature of the running shoe industry is to improve the performance of all runners. Whether it’s keeping a runner injury free or making them feel faster on race day, it all comes back to improved performance. Even the most basic shoe from your local running store is significantly better than any running shoe from 30 years ago.
I’m not a fan of Nike. I don’t have a single pair of their shoes in my vast array of athletic footwear. And I am not naive to their influence over the USATF. However, I don’t understand the backlash to Nike attempting to improve the performance of its athletes through innovations in running shoes. In fact, I applaud them for doing so. They were first to a breakthrough technology that every brand in the industry is now trying to replicate.
Where would sports be if it wasn’t for the innovations in athletic equipment? Can you imagine Michael Jordan driving the lane in a pair of high-top converse, Tom Brady lining up under center in a leather helmet, or Tiger Woods teeing up a drive with a wooden shaft? Why is the running world so intent on keeping our sport in the stone age while other sports progress? I firmly believe that it is the role of major brands to drive the sport forward and create technologies that are going to help human beings achieve incredible feats.
If you are going to get mad at anyone, get mad at the sport’s governing body. It is on them to make sure that the playing field is as even as possible. If a technology is creating an unfair advantage for certain athletes, be firm and swift in communicating what is legal and illegal. Make clear guidelines for what materials can and can’t be used in competition. If anyone can buy it, I don’t care that some brands don’t have access to the same technologies. If one brand has something that another doesn’t, that’s an incentive for an athlete to sign with that brand. If you don’t believe in that philosophy then you don’t believe in capitalism.
Episode 31 – Marathon Mayhem – has P2E’s reaction to Eliud Kipchoge running a 1:59 marathon in Nike’s groundbreaking kicks.
I guess the moral of the story is that fans of our sport need to embrace change. If everyone has access to a certain technology (even if they must purchase said technology…) than its fair game. Change is good! If I had to run in canvas shoes with nothing but a thin layer of rubber between my foot and the pavement, I never would have made it past my first 5k. 80 years from now runners will be saying that they can’t believe people used to run marathons without nuclear powered rocket boosters in the midsoles of their shoes. Records were meant to be broken and watching them get broken will grow the sport. So, everyone please shut up, sit back, and enjoy the show! There are plenty of battles to be fought in this sport and shoe technology should not be one of them.