How one Haas alum revolutionized athletic footwear
NEVER BEFORE HAVE RUNNING SHOES SEEN such controversy. Reports that Nike’s Vaporflys are shaving minutes off of elite marathoners’ times have caused many to liken the shoes to technological doping. Runners wearing them have logged the five fastest men’s marathon and the fastest women’s marathon times ever recorded. An evolved Vaporfly prototype worn by Eliud Kipchoge to break the two-hour marathon is banned from international competition.
The Vaporflys’ secret? A carbon-fiber plate for stability surrounded by thick Pebax, a springy, lightweight aerospace foam that propels runners forward. It’s a profound technological advancement, the likes of which the running shoe industry hasn’t seen since the 1970s—when the late Jerry Turner, MBA 60, then president of Brooks, set the gold standard for design by replacing rubber midsoles with EVA, ethylene vinyl acetate, an air-infused foam widely used today. Turner also invented a wedge to combat overpronation, heralding the modern running shoe’s emphasis on support and individual running gaits. The Brooks Vantage, named 1977’s best running shoe, put the company on the map.
To put Turner’s ingenuity, which paved the way for the likes of the Vaporfly, into context, here’s a brief evolution of running shoes.