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Nike Racing shoes

Two and half years ago, when Nike decided to make running a major focus of the company once again, they assigned a small team to revisit racing shoes. They began by talking to marathoners, and discovered that many were wearing flats that were seven to 10 years old, shoes like its Marathoner model worn by Paula Radcliffe in 2003 or the two-generations-old Zoom Streak LT 3. To learn where it had gone wrong, the team flew to Kenya and spent a week with elite marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, running with him and others in Patrick Sang’s training group and talking about what they liked and didn’t like in shoes.

The first characteristic of the shoe they developed is its more foot-shaped last. No longer the tight, narrow toe of traditional racing flats, the Zoom Streak 6 flares forward of the arch, particularly on the medial side to leverage the push-off power of the big toe.

The Nike team also made sure the sole of their new racer didn’t have a specific flex point like many racers. Instead, a strong upward turn of the toe, as well as a slight rocker shape across the foot, allow for a rolling stride and the flex—which occurs wherever your foot most needs it—bounces back quickly due to a plastic flex plate embedded in the midfoot.

The Nike team brought a prototype of the shoe to Kipchoge the Wednesday before the 2015 London Marathon. Kipchoge walked around in them for two days, as is his habit, according to Seb Tesche, Nike Product Line Manager of the “Fast” team, and declared the night before, “I’m absolutely going to run in them.” He did, and won (in 2:04:42). In the coming year, Kipchoge continue to help the Nike team refine the shoe. “He’s good at nudging us in the right direction, ” says Tesche.

Kipchoge ran 2015’s fastest marathon time (2:04:00) in the next version of the shoe at the 2015 Berlin Marathon, but unfortunately all the headlines were about the insoles that came loose and flapped in the wind for much of the race. Nike rues letting their ace down, but lessons were learned. Rest assured, the insole on the Streak 6 is firmly anchored. We couldn’t pull it out or even loosen it with considerable effort.

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