Adidas and the throwaway shoes that have changed the pace of athletics | Sports

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Just a few hours after Tigist Assefa, a 26-year-old Ethiopian athlete, triumphantly passed through the Brandenburg Gate and ran the last 200 meters, quickening her pace to go under two hours and twelve minutes, something never seen before, just a few hours later After this woman broke, or rather crushed, the marathon world record by more than two minutes (two hours, 11 minutes and 53 seconds), Adidas, her sponsor, spread a resounding announcement on social networks, of only 14 minutes. seconds, in which gigantic sneakers were seen, the white sneakers with the three black bands worn by Assefa, tied to the Berlin television tower, the ‘Berliner Fernsehturm’, while a helicopter hovered like a dragonfly around them. Enough.

Assefa won with a model, Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1, which could be revolutionary and allows the German brand to end years of dominance by its great rival, the American Nike, led by the intractable Eliud Kipchoge. Marketing managers are now striving to turn these sneakers into an almost unattainable object. For its price, 500 euros; because the only way to get it -except in a few physical stores in Berlin- is by going to their website and signing up for a raffle in which the prize, long live the marketing, is to pay those 500 euros, and because a rumor has spread that They are for only one use: a couple of training sessions and the race in which you want to improve your time. This model also only weighs 136 grams, compared to 185 for the Vaporfly competitors.

Javi Moro, head of sports equipment at Hall, a magazine specialized in athletics and running, has been analyzing running shoes for 30 years and, although this novelty has not yet been worn, it knows that Adidas has changed its design to dominate the market. “The last ones were not as effective, but now the foams have changed and have a different geometry. The same carbon plate has foam inserts to make it more reactive at the front. Like a sandwich. “These carbon fiber rods act more independently than a single-piece plate – which is common in the competition – but with the same curved shape.”

This story, this revolution in footwear that has allowed all world racing records on asphalt to be broken in five years, begins on a cold morning in May 2017 at the Monza circuit, in northern Italy. That day, Nike deployed a device never seen before, a marathon full of ‘traps’, of aid not allowed by the regulations, so that Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run 42,195 kilometers in less than two hours. The Americans invested a lot of money in that project, called Breaking2, and a large part was allocated to researching how to get running shoes like never before. Nike widened the traditionally narrow sole to add a carbon plate and reactive foams. The result was the Vaporfly, the first prototype of this shoe that would change the history of athletics.

That day Kipchoge was 25 seconds away from his goal, but two years later, on October 12, 2019, a new project called Ineos 1:59 Challenge, another race organized with similar conditions, but in the Viennese Prater, Kipchoge, Bouncing off the ground with that first evolved model, now called Alphafly, he achieved his goal (one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds).

Assefa and Kipchoge on the podium of the Berlin Marathon.
Assefa and Kipchoge on the podium of the Berlin Marathon.LISI NIESNER (REUTERS)

Nothing was ever the same again. A day later, in Chicago, a virtually unknown Kenyan athlete, Brigid Kosgei, broke the marathon world record held by Britain’s Paula Radcliffe since 2003. Then came Kipchoge’s improvements in the men’s event. The records of Dennis Kimetto (2014) and Paula Radcliffe (2003) went down in history as the last achieved without a carbon plate

Moro believes that Adidas can end Nike’s supremacy, which it achieved thanks to a foam in the sole called Pebax. “It was the same one that a British aerospace company used to wrap certain products that they launched to satellites. It has a brutal expansion capacity, is very resistant and very light. And they have kept the secret as if it were the formula for Coca-Cola. Pebax acts like a spring, but is thermoplastic. The soles were almost hollow inside, like a sponge, and became a catapult from the heel forward to send you flying. And they have a second benefit: no more the typical image of the marathon runner limping the next day. I was one of those and with these shoes it has never happened to me again. The foam protects you more from the impact and also makes you reach the last kilometers more whole.”

While Assefa destroyed the world record in Berlin, Marta Galimany was running on the paths around Lake Matemale, in Font Romeu, in the French Pyrenees, in preparation for the Valencia Marathon (December 3). In the afternoon she sat down with her boyfriend and her coach, Jordi Toda, and they watched the entire race. As soon as she finished, the woman from Tarragona, also sponsored by Adidas, thought: And will I be able to run with these shoes in Valencia? “I think they have made very few and they have told me that they are going to see if they can get us a pair, but they cannot guarantee it. I don’t know anyone who has tried them. Carlos Mayo put them on to take promotional photographs and then they took them away. But, well, if they don’t arrive I will run with the Adios Pro 3, which are the best of my brand until the new ones have arrived.”

The Spanish marathon record holder believes that this revolution is just one more step in the evolution of materials, and assures that more important than footwear are the legs. “Just with the shoes, it’s not worth it. And not only has this evolved, so has nutrition, the asphalt on the roads, training methods… It all adds up.”

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