Nike has more than 100 styles of men’s running shoes and more than a dozen ways to filter through them on its website. But nowhere in the shoe-buying experience will you be asked to consider one of the most basic running-related questions: How fast do you run?
Vimazi is a Seattle-based startup that wants to put that fundamental metric — a runner’s pace — at the center of how it designs and markets running shoes. The startup is in the midst of a seed financing round that could reach $1 million, and the company said it could pursue a Series A as early as next year. Vimazi declined to share the names of its angel investors.
Scott Tucker, CEO and co-founder of Vimazi, is a competitive runner and shoe industry veteran who thinks he can crack the code of giving runners the most spring for their strides. And he’s building the company based on a scientific study of how speed affects running biomechanics.
“A single shoe can’t actually end up returning energy at different paces because the forces change depending on how fast you’re running,” said Tucker.
This idea of energy return in running shoes is at the center of an international controversy over Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly. The shoe helped Eliud Kipchoge run the first sub-2-hour marathon and Brigid Kosgei knock 18 seconds off of the previous women’s record. Running journalist Amby Burfoot wrote that Nike’s foam acts “almost like leg muscles” to prevent fatigue.
Some have claimed the shoe provides an unfair advantage. But while Tucker welcomes the controversy — especially if it can help him sell shoes — he doesn’t think next-generation materials are blameworthy.
“You can’t violate the law of conservation of energy,” he said. “You can’t get more out of the shoe than you put in.”
Tucker, who has completed five of the six World Marathon Majors, previously led the running shoe and triathlon branch of biking stalwart Pearl Izumi. Prior to that, he was president of trail-running brand Montrail, which was acquired by Columbia Sportswear in 2006. He also led running shoes at Scott Sports.
Tucker co-founded Vimazi with chief marketing officer John Zilly, who previously ran marketing agency Milepost59.
To develop the new line of shoes, Tucker is relying on data that he collected on running biomechanics through a study on how people run at different speeds. “The results of this are what led to the insights and the underpinnings for the technology that we put into the shoes,” he said. “It’s complicated. And that’s what makes it super fascinating.”
Vimazi plans to sell direct-to-consumer with six different models for women and men based on “pace zones” and will also offer a subscription option. The company has four employees and is registered under the name FastEquation.