Sports is chock-full of seemingly unbeatable records. Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak, Cal Ripken’s consecutive-games streak and Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 career points all represent mind-boggling figures. These are the numbers that keep us watching.
An elusive mark from the running world is the 2-hour marathon. The closest anyone has come (and the current world record) was Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto who clocked in at 2:02:57 in 2014. Three minutes doesn’t sound like much, but any long-distance runner will tell you otherwise.
Nike’s new “Zoom Vaporfly 4%” shoe is making the mark more feasible, according to a recent University of Colorado-Boulder study that discovered that the shoe reduces energy use up to 4 percent while running. While Nike did fund the study, authors say that “in no way influenced the results.”
The Zoom Vaporfly 4% was originally created in conjunction with the Nike Breaking2 project to aim for a marathon run under two hours, and to test the shoe, researchers had participants (a group of 18 experienced male runners) each run six five-minute treadmill trials per day for three days. While running, they would breathe into a device measuring oxygen consumption.
Participants wore three different pairs of shoes, one being Vaporfly 4%, which lived up to its name and showed an average energy savings of 4%.
“Every single day at every single speed, every runner used less energy with the prototype shoe,” senior research author Rodger Kram said in a statement. “There is no reason to believe the results would be different for slower speeds, since our findings were the same at all the speeds we tested.”
Nike on Friday trumpeted that elite runners wearing the shoes had captured 19 of the 36 possible top-three finishes among the 2017 World Major Marathons, including American woman Shalane Flanagan winning the New York City Marathon last month.
Quickness does come with a hefty price; the Zoom Vaporfly 4%’s are $250 per pair and will be available this month, with new colorways coming in 2018 on nike.com and select retailers.