Student Interest

The World-Record Shoe

On September 5, Kenyan athlete Peres Jepchirchir broke a world record when she completed Prague’s 21.1 km course 37 seconds faster than the previous record time for women’s running. 

Similar to other running world records, she was wearing trainers. However, they were Adidas and not Nike. Since 2017, Nike has dominated the record scene, having released trainers containing carbon-fiber plates that significantly improve performance. 

It’s now time for the Adizero Adios Pro. For the past two years, Adidas staff has been working tirelessly on the Adios Pro. 

 

 

This has been Adidas’ first real response to Nike’s dominance. Unlike traditional high-end running shoes, these don’t contain carbon-fiber plates. 

Ever since Nike released the Vaporfly 4% shoe, other shoe companies have been replicating its carbon-fiber plate. 

However, Adidas has completely changed the standard with the Adios Pro by having curved carbon-infused rods running through the shoe. These are packed tight between two pieces of Adidas’ Lightstrike Pro foam. 

According to Sam Handy, Vice President of design at Adidas running, “the origin of the energy rod is to try and mirror the metatarsal bones of the foot.” Therefore, they equal each bone and are curved to match their shape. The rods are also stiffened to give optimal energy return when combined with the other parts of the shoe, like the foam. The company tried “hundreds” of prototypes, each with distinct rod lengths, positions, and stiffness. 

Adidas also experimented with full-length carbon fiber plates but determined the carbon-infused rods superior. Handy states that reinforcement is necessary where the bones are. “We found that it gives the shoe a much more natural gait than when you have a big carbon plate.

Independent studies have shown that Nike’s Vapor Fly shoes make runners more efficient. The exact reason is unknown. While it’s true that the carbon-fiber plate and ZoomX foam contribute to the overall performance of the shoe, neither can be selected as the “supercharging feature.” To pinpoint the exact reason, further scientific research is necessary. The shoes would have to be tested with and without the plates as well as with other plates made from different materials. 

Handy states that carbon-fiber plates aren’t necessarily needed to boost efficiency. He argues it’s all about each element in a shoe. Each component can provide gains to the overall efficiency. 

According to Alberto Uncini Manganelli, General Manager of running at Adidas, what truly matters is the foam’s degradation, the radius of any rocker design, and the level of stiffness. “They work together, they should work in sync. When you change a parameter, you need to adjust the other to get the best possible performance. So the equation was advanced.” 

Just as important as the shoe is the runner. As of now, only sponsored professional athletes constantly train and help develop the shoe. At the Prague event, all of the runners were sponsored by Adidas and wore the new shoe.

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