Just a few hours after Tigist Assefa, a 26-year-old Ethiopian athlete, triumphantly passed through the Brandenburg Gate and traveled the last 200 meters pressing the pace to lower the two hours and twelve minutes, the never seen, just a few hours after this woman beat, or rather crushed, the marathon world record by more than two minutes (two hours, 11 minutes and 53 seconds), Adidas, his sponsor, spread on social networks a resounding ad, of only 14 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 fluttered like a dragonfly around it. Enough.
Assefa won with a model, Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1, which can be revolutionary and that allows the German brand to end years of dominance of its great rival, Nike, American, led by the intractable Eliud Kipchoge. Marketers 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 entering their website and signing up for a draw in which the prize, long live marketing, is to disburse those 500 euros, and because there has been a rumor that they are only one use: a couple of workouts and the race in which you want to improve your brand. This model, in addition, only weighs 136 grams, compared to 185 of the Vaporfly of the competition.
Javi Moro, head of sports equipment at Corredor, a magazine specializing in athletics and running, has been analyzing running shoes for 30 years and, although this novelty has not yet been shoemade, he knows that Adidas has varied its design to dominate the market. "The last ones were not as effective, but now they have changed the foams and have a different geometry. The same carbon plate has foam inserts to make it more reactive on the front. Like a sandwich. Those carbon fiber rods act more independently than a one-piece plate – which is usual in the competition – but with the same curved shape."
This story, this revolution in footwear that has allowed to break all the records in the world of asphalt racing in five years, begins one 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 aids 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 spent on researching how to get running shoes like never before. Nike enlarged the sole, traditionally narrow, to put 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 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 against the ground with that first evolved model, now called Alphafly, achieved his goal (one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds).
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 carbon plate
Moro believes that Adidas can end the supremacy of Nike, which achieved it thanks to a foam on the sole called Pebax. "It was the same one used by a British aerospace company to wrap certain products that they launched to satellites. It has a brutal expansion capacity, it is very resistant and very light. And they have kept the secret as if it were the formula of Coca-Cola, El Pebax acts as a spring, but being thermoplastic. The soles were almost hollow inside, as if they were a sponge, and turned into a catapult from the heel part forward to make you shoot out. And they have a second benefit: the typical image of the marathoner limping the next day is over. I was one of those and with these shoes it has not happened to me again. The foam protects you more from the impact and also makes you more complete to the last kilometers."
While Assefa shattered the world record in Berlin, Marta Galimany was running along the roads around Lake Matemale, in Font Romeu, in the French Pyrenees, in her preparation for the Valencia Marathon (December 3). In the afternoon she sat down with her boyfriend and coach, Jordi Toda, and watched the full race. As soon as she finished, the Tarragona, also sponsored by Adidas, thought: And I will be able to run with these shoes in Valencia? "I think they have done very few and they have told me that they will see if they can get us a pair, but they cannot assure us. 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 ensures that more important than footwear, are the legs. "Just with the sneakers, it's not worth it. And not only has this evolved, so has nutrition, asphalt roads, training methods... It all adds up."
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