In 2014, Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto ran a marathon in Berlin in 2:02:57, setting the world record for the fastest time in the event. Now, he’s facing intense competition not from another runner, but from a company.
For two years, Nike has been working to design a shoe that would allow runners to break the two-hour mark in marathons, something that’s been impossible in the past. On Tuesday, the company finally unveiled the shoe that it plans to use to help someone break Kimetto’s record this spring.
The Nike Zoom Vapor Elite is the result of innovative design and new material and Nike hopes it will be the fastest shoe yet.
“Form must follow function,” said Nike designer Stefan Guest in a press release. “We leveraged aerodynamic insights to deliver a radical and iconic aesthetic that screams speed.”
The Zoom Vapor Elite has a thicker sole than the average racing shoe, but inside it holds an innovative foam cushion called Nike ZoomX. According to the company, the foam is lighter and softer than traditional cushioning. The shoe also has a scooped carbon fiber plate to add stiffness.
“The goal of having a plate is to reduce how much energy loss happens when the runner bends at the toe,” said Dr. Geng Luo, a senior Nike researcher, in a press release. “This curved plate is stiff enough to achieve that and because it has this geometry, it does so without increasing demand on the calf.”
When runners Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese compete this spring in Nike’s Breaking2 event, their shoes will each have a plate customized specifically for them. They’ll also wear Nike apparel tailored specifically for their preferences.
Nike isn’t the first company to use technology to attempt to push runners past the two hour barrier in marathons. Rival company adidas debuted the adidas adizero Sub2 shoe at the Tokyo Marathon last week. While Wilson Kipsang, the former marathon world record runner, won the race, he didn’t break the mark, coming in at 2:03:58.
It’s unclear exactly when Kipchoge, Desisa and Tadese will race this spring in Monza, Italy, but Nike plans to live stream the event, and you can sign up to be notified about it here.