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Olympic footwear unveiled

Olympic footwear unveiled

Olympic year is always great.
Not only do we get to sit in front of the TV watching performances we could only ever dream of achieving, the Games also triggers the major brands to make sure their products are the best possible for those taking part. That means new launches and new technologies.

We caught up with John Truax to find out more about what Nike will be giving their athletes to compete in. is unashamedly distance running focused so we will start with these shoes.
John reminded of the Zoom Miler which was launched in 2004: “With the Zoom Miler we worked with Bernard Lagat, Hicham El Guerrouj, and Alan Webb. It did quite well and got gold, silver and bronze in Athens. At the time it was 142g. So we have set out to improve our middle distance spike.”
The new spike is called the Nike Zoom Victory. One of the improvements made has been the introduction of Flywire. John explained to
“We have a strong fibre made of Vectran which is Kevlar like, and we have a strengthened Nylon that is strong enough for the retail version of the shoe. It floats freely and we add a laminate on top so it takes the shape of the mesh. There is no stretch at all so it locks the foot where it is needed. It has reduced all of the overlays and reduced the weight as the threads weight next to nothing.”
For more on Flywire technology see here.
But that is not the only development. John told “Then we have a Flashlon midsole. It is a new foam, 22% lighter than what we were using before. Our developers found this in Japan, it’s a super lightweight foam.”
The foam is also used in the Ventulus 2. “We thought it might feel spongy. If it is too soft it could become unstable but it is not at all.
“There is a huge weight saving in the Zoom Victory. There are no overlays and no heel counter because the foot is locked so well. Without that the foot can sit back in the shoe so the upper can wrap around it more. We were looking at ways to reduce weight, every little saving.”
Another example of the weight savings is in the way the shoe is built. A shoe has to be sewn together to holds its shape when strobel board is being stuck in place. But Nike have used the thread used is similar to surgical thread – it dissolves to save even more weight. John told “Even using this saves a couple of grams.”
The Zoom Victory has differences to the Zoom Miler on the outsole too: “On the sharkskin section of the outsole we have decreased the number of lines. You still get good traction. But we have carved out everything you can get away with.”
The spike plate is still very similar to the old Zoom Miler but that too has been adapted. John told “Hicham El Guerrouj, Kenenisa Bekele and Bernard Lagat were all having the spike plate cut so it didn’t extend so far to the midfoot. They didn’t want that stiffness in the midfoot. So we have just produced it that way now. The lateral pin has also moved towards the centre by 8mm. It is now positioned less where your foot lands, that was causing a pressure point for some people. There is some foam on the outside of [that part of] the plate to protect the upper [so the plate doesn’t cut into it]”

The Matumbo

The Matumbo

“Six guys were wearing the Victory in Osaka. We gave them the shoes the night before the prelims. We gave them to them to run in for the rest of the summer but they ran in them in Osaka. Webb set the US record in them.”

In the World Championships Bernard Lagat had a word written on the side of his shoe – Matumbo. This is the name that was given to the middle distance version of the Victory. This shoe uses the Ventulus 2 outsole/midsole unit. But the spike plate no longer has fixed pins but new lighter receptacles allow removable spikes to be used with no increase in weight. The name has its roots in Kenyan celebrations.
“When they have won something they slaughter a goat. The Matumbo is the part they save for the end. It is the lower intestines of the goat.”
While the rear end of a goat’s guts might not be what you’d expect a shoe to be called, or expect to be eating after a race the name has stuck.

John told “The Matumbo is for the 5K and the Victory for the 1500m. Some will wear the Victory in the 5K.”

Paula Radcliffe's marathon shoe

In the marathon some athletes will be lining up in the Lunaracer which features Lunar Foam and Flywire technologies. But can reveal that Paula Radcliffe is likely to be wearing the shoe she was involved in the development of some time back: “The Marathoner is Paula’s preferred shoe. There are a lot of people wearing it. It is good because you can get too minimal in a racing flat for the marathon, some people want a bit more protection. So this is a good versatile shoe. It has a good fit and a comfortable upper.”
John said Nike were looking at something ‘special’ for her Marathoners but wouldn’t tell us what was being planned at this stage. So we moved on to the sprint shoes.

Maxcat 2

Maxcat 2

John told “The Maxcat 2 is out now. We updated the Maxcat and probably the biggest change was the spike plate. It is more aggressive and a bit stiffer. The old one was using the old JSC plate. That was built for Michael Johnson. He liked a light plate, and we wanted something more aggressive. The spike is for 100m to 400m whereas the Maxcat I was 200m/400m and right for some 800m runners. It is a stiffer plate now but not heavier. We have taken quite a lot out through the centre of the plate. There are also more aggressive secondary elements. It has got a carbon fibre insert so it is a bit more rigid and has a ventilated upper. The sprinters like it better but it is not so suited to middle distance. There is a cluster on the medial side so it works for bend running. Bershawn Jackson works with it and we are pretty happy with the way it has come out.”

Nike Zoom Ja

Nike Zoom Ja

One spike not available in the UK at the minute is one of Nike’s most popular spikes in the US, the Ja. John told “The Ja continues. It has been very successful. It has a Superfly spike plate and is the shoe Asafa Powell set the World Record in. Asafa Powell uses these from the box. Some of our athletes want the plate making stiffer but he likes the plate as it is as he wants to feel the track a bit more.
“It is still our most popular power sprint spike plate. Even for the 200m runners it uses the old Maxcat upper which gives good lockdown. It has got internal strapping at the forefoot.”

Nike Zoom Superfly R2 & Bigbrother

Nike Zoom Superfly R2 & Bigbrother

The spike many sprinters in the UK reach for is the Superfly R2. John told “The [Superfly] R2 is for the 100m power sprinters. It has a double strap – one more than the G5. We were working with Xavier Carter and did some testing with him. We wanted a little bit more lock down. So we shifted the strap and added a second, it is almost like a cycling cleat for the track. It uses the tried and true Superfly spike plate.”
For those not wanting something as aggressive as the R2 there is the Bigbrother: “The Bigbrother uses the Celar plate. It is a versatile plate that has been around from 1999/2000. It sits between the other two spike plates; it is not as light and flexible as the Maxcat or as aggressive as the Superfly plate. It is a really popular plate and the kids are buying the shoe and using it for 100m through 400m, with no problems.”

Nike field event shoes

Nike field event shoes

John also talked through the Nike shoes for the field eventers. For polevaulters there is a new shoe the Zoom PV 2. John said: “The previous shoe was light, a little too light perhaps. If an athlete was doing a lot of jumps in practise in them they could tear the suede a bit. The plate compound has also changed. The original had glass in it, not just pebax, we had a few crack.”
The Rotational IV does what the name suggests – caters for throwers using a rotational technique where as the SD 2 is for those who use a glide: “There is a new upper in the SD which is out now. We tried to take out a little bit of weight. There is also am aluminium ring for the Velcro fastening so it is stronger. That shoe is for the glide. The Rotational has a double strap. It gives what we wanted - a bit more lockdown.”
“The HJ is out now. The biggest complaint we had about previous models was just the weight. We had a lighter high jump shoe we built for Mark Boswell. So we incorporated those learnings into the new shoe. There is a carbon fibre shank for torsional rigidity. There is good strength in it without adding weight.”
If you feel your shoes are expensive pity the javelin throwers, their shoes cost more and rarely get updated! “Our most expensive track and field shoe is the Javelin Elite. We hadn’t updated this for many years. The upper now incorporates the ratchet to really lock the foot in place. The athletes said the strap was not enough, they were losing power and getting painful toe-nails. The ratchet was inspired by cycling. It prevents the foot from moving forwards. There’s a toe bumper to give durability when you are dragging your back foot forwards. Otherwise you can burn through the upper. And there is a full length Pebax spike plate.”

Nike have added a shoe to their stable. John told “The Zoom TJ 3 is the first time we have had a triple jump only shoe. The plate is flat and broad so that it gives more stability during the hop and step. It is a really flat plate, flatter than on the PV to give more stability. Some will still jump in the LJ depending on what style they want. It is more for strengthening the jumping phase rather than for speed. There is protection but it is still a lot lighter than the previous triple jump and pole vault shoe. The plate is pretty thin. Some people will pole vault in it too."

To find out more about adidas' Olympic footwear click here. The article includes details on the shoes for Tyson Gay, Yelena Isinbayeva, Allyson Felix and Jeremy Wariner.

See also our special article on
Jeremy Wariner's new adidas Lone Star spike

To see more information on Asafa Powell's Olympic spike, the Nike Zoom Aerofly, click here.

To find out about Usain Bolt's world record breaking Puma sprint spike from the Beijing 100m final, the Puma Theseus, click here.

For more information on how to use to find the best running shoes click here or here.

Written by: Andy Barber on: May 1, 2008



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