Breaking Down The Shoes That Carried Eliud Kipchoge To A Sub-2-Hour Marathon
As we said on Saturday when Eliud Kipchoge made his incredible run, a sub-two-hour marathon is more than just a personal achievment. It's moved the needle on human perfomance forever.
The past few years have seen running performance come leaps and bounds ahead of what it used to be, propelled both literally and metaphorically by the simultaneous advances that have been made in the technology that goes into running gear.
Running shoes have now never been so advanced, loaded with all manner of different tricks and gizmos to make sure that top-level runners are getting more explosiveness and more support out of every step, while getting so light they practically weigh negative grams.
As such, it stands to rights that Eliud Kipchoge's ground-breaking sub-2-hour marathon run in Vienna this weekend was also a pretty momentous occasion in proving how far sports technology has come as a whole. Kipchoge's run was arguably one of the great all-time human achievements — but he was also propelled under-foot by a revolutionary new pair of Nike long-distance running shoes that have drawn almost as much attention as the record-setting Kenyan himself.
The shoes were a specially-customised pair of Nike Zoom X Vaporfly NEXT% — a special model of long-distance running shoes that are designed to be as light as possible and donned by elite runners for a few hundred kilometres on race days only.
They're absolutely not training shoes, and aren't designed as such — with Nike reserving its most advanced technology to ensure that they'll perform as runners reach maximum capacity during marathons and half marathons.
The main highlight of the shoe comes in the form of a carbon fibre plate that's embedded in the shoe's foam midsole to provide a sensation of propulsion. It also has Nike's classic Zoom Air cushioning — a thinner, more pressurised air bubble that's designed for explosive movements over comfort.
The upper is designed from Nike's lightest material — dubbed Vaporweave, that's both lighter and less moisture-retentive than Flyknit.
Nike have been developing shoes designed almost exclusively to help Kipchoge break the 2-hour barrier since 2015. The first, the Vaporfly Elite, was used during Nike's Breaking2 project at Monza — where Kipchoge ran a 2:00:26.
The shoes have since been retooled and redeveloped to attain the level you see today, with Kipchoge breaking the official marathon world record (at Berlin in 2018) in the process.
"For the past five years," wrote Nike shortly before the attempt, "Kipchoge has offered astute feedback on the full gamut of Nike’s running footwear — from Free to Epic React and Pegasus to Vomero. Most important, he has been a constant partner in Nike’s effort to redefine the marathon shoe.
"What's clear is that this champion's singular experience will prompt more feedback, more questions and, ultimately, more advance in the sport as a whole."