The Speed Gambit
Tuesday, 28 June 2016 17:28

The Speed Gambit

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When it comes to track and field, “fast” takes on a number of definitions. It can mean sprinting 100 meters in 10.70 seconds or covering 10,000 meters in a medal-winning 27:30.42. Ahead of the summer, Nike footwear designers tasked themselves with not only outfitting but also accelerating athletes across this entire gamut.

So they started with science on the sprint-side of the spectrum, which says that to make a sprinter, like three-time 100-meter World Champion and two-time gold-medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, faster through a shoe you have to stiffen the sole. Imagine a baseball bat: the longer that bat, the harder you can hit the ball. It’s all about force transfer. The idea of making a spike plate stiffer is the same: It increases the foot’s ability to drive propulsive force into the ground — the key component of speed.

But stiffness is only part of the solution; the shoe must also be light. Cutting-edge computational design tools and speedy 3D-printed prototyping led the team to the ideal balance of requirements and steered the creation of the Nike Superfly Elite spike, which propelled Fraser-Pryce down the track .013 seconds faster, a gap that could mean the difference between first and fourth place.

To meet their greater “fast” directive, the team looked to extend the Superfly Elite plate innovation across all track and field footwear, noting that as event distances go up, speed becomes less about stiffness and more about endurance, which places cushioning at the fore. The same push and pull applies to the upper: while the 100 and 200 meters require maximum containment, longer distances necessitate more breathability. The upshot: Each shoe is more than the sum of its parts; it’s a cohesive acceleration system.

The 2016 Nike track and field footwear collection includes (above, from left to right): 
1. Nike Zoom Javelin Elite 2: Throwing spike (javelin)
2. Nike Zoom Rotational 6: Throwing shoe (hammer throw, shot-put and discus)
3. Nike Zoom SD4: Throwing shoe (hammer throw, shot-put and discus)
4. Nike Zoom Streak 6: Racing flat (marathon)
5. Nike Zoom PV II: Jumping spike (pole vault)
6. Nike Zoom LJ 4: Jumping spike (long jump, triple jump)
7. Nike Zoom Victory 3: Distance spike (800 to 5,000 meters)
8. Nike Zoom D: Distance spike (800 to 10,000 meters)
9. Nike Zoom Matumbo 3: Distance spike  (1,500 to 100,000 meters)
10. Nike Zoom Celar 5: Sprint spike (100 to 400 meters)
11. Nike Zoom Superfly Elite: Sprint spike (100 to 400 meters)
12. Nike Zoom Victory Elite 2: Distance spike (1,500 to 5,000 meters)
13. Nike Streak Flyknit: Racing flat (marathon)
14. Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit: Sprint spike (100 to 400 meters)

Not pictured:
Nike Zoom Streak LT3: Racing flat (marathon)
Nike High Jump Elite: Jumping spike (high jump)
Nike Triple Jump Elite: Jumping spike (triple jump)
Nike Zoom Ja Fly 2: Sprint spike (100 to 400 meters)
Nike Zoom Mamba 3: Distance spike (steeplechase)
Nike Zoom Maxcat 4: Sprint spike (100 to 800 meters)
Nike Zoom Rival SD 2: Throwing shoe (hammer throw, shot-put and discus)
Nike Lunaracer 4: Racing flat (5,000 meters to marathon)

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