When Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier in Vienna last October, runners all around the globe were a great deal baffled and itching to find out what tech was in his shoe – because of course, there is no doubting Eliud’s graceful performance that day.
It really was no secret, though. The event was a staged time challenge by INEOS, formally branded as the INEOS 1:59:00 Challenge, and was one of Nike’s unarguably successful PR stunts to date for both their athlete and products.
Decked out all in Nike, Eliud was running at a pace most runners only dream of sustaining for a full-length marathon. And clocking it at 1:59:40 wearing the prototype of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, every runner was stunned and, incidentally, were curious about whether or not the same tech would grace the shelves of their stores as a regular stock item.
Given the success of the event, that should come as an undoubtable fact, but up until recent days, it was all just hear-says.
Breaking barriers in sport and innovation
However, last Wednesday, August 26, the rumors were shushed and the launch was confirmed – the NEXT% was coming to stores, and every runner, whether aiming for record-breaking success or not, could finally get their hands on it.
In what Nike’s VP for Footwear Innovation Tony Bignell describes as a shattering of a ‘collective belief about what’s possible’, Kipchoge broke what has long been known as the normal barrier for a marathon finish time. And so in their footwear engineering labs used these barriers as inspiration for innovation.
Bignell adds that, “like athletes, when a barrier is in front of us, we are challenged to think differently and push game-changing progress in footwear design.”
The NEXT% platform is said to be the ultimate expression of Nike’s ambition to engineer footwear with measurable performance benefit. According to the sports apparel brand, the NEXT% and the science and work that was put into it is all about creating ‘efficient intersections’ between technology and the human body.
By doing so, the brand continues aspiring to enable athletes to shatter personal boundaries, and even break records. It is, as Nike would put it, the ‘ultimate meeting of sports science and purposeful design’.
The Nike NEXT% system
To give athletes ‘measurable benefit’, the Nike NEXT% was engineered as a footwear innovation system developed from condensed information provided by sport scientists and verified by the Nike Sport Research Lab.
Nike’s newest race-day shoe features two new updates which are further refined iterations of technology found in the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% namely the Nike Zoom Air pods and a thicker ZoomX foam.
Adding to the Zoom Air pods and the ZoomX foam, the shoe will also feature a single carbon fiber plate, and an ultra-breathable, lightweight Flyknit upper – all adding up to improved cushioning and running efficiency.
Combining their most innovative technologies in one shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% features three critical components that work together to propel athletes forward on race day:
- Full-length Carbon Fiber Plate. To provide stability and smooth transitioning during ground impact, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% is designed for increased stiffness in the forefoot to provide a sensation of propulsion.
- Nike ZoomX Foam. With the ZoomX cushioning system, runners on race day will also be provided with a lightweight shoe that serves optimal energy return – minimizing energy loss in two ways.
- Nike Zoom Air Pods. As an added measure for maximizing energy return, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT % also features Nike’s Zoom Air pods
What are the NEXT% shoes in line?
The Nike Air Zoom Alphafly is only part of a suite of products in the NEXT% line that will be released this 2020, according to Nike. In the coming months, Nike fans can look forward to training shoes incorporating that will complement the Alphafly’s such as the Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% and the Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% FlyEase.
For the Tempo NEXT%, the NEXT% system is specifically fine-tuned for training, with a plate that shifts from carbon to a composite – a softer iteration that provides more comfort over higher mileage, while maintaining stability and transition.
Visit Nike.com for more information on the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, Tempo NEXT%, and Tempo NEXT% FlyEase.
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