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Are Supershoes Worth the Cost?

A new Adidas shoe is made to help runners win races, but it doesn’t last very long.
A closeup of a pair of Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 shoes being worn.
© Adidas
Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 shoes are made for speed, but they don’t last long.

In September 2023, Tigist Assefa, a runner from Ethiopia, broke a world running time record in the Berlin Marathon. Could the secret to her speed have been what she wore on her feet? Adidas, the company that made Assefa’s Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 running shoes, claims the footwear had something to do with it.

After the marathon, Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden posted a photo of himself and Assefa, holding one of the shoes.

“Tigist Assefa…we are so proud of you!” he wrote.

The new Adidas “supershoes” are designed for experienced long-distance runners like Assefa. The shoes contain foam and other materials that add up to a lighter weight, which usually translates to faster running speeds. Adidas made the shoes to compete with those made by other shoe companies, especially Nike. Nike’s Vaporfly shoes are also lightweight and designed to improve running times. Nike, which charges $250 for a pair of Vaporfly shoes, tested the Vaporfly for years and concluded that it helps improve running times by about 4 percent compared to regular running shoes.

A lineup of Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 shoes along with various lightweight materials.
© Adidas
Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 shoes (top) are made up of several lightweight materials (bottom).

Adidas’s Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 shoes cost $500 a pair. They’re lighter than Vaporfly shoes, but the trade-off for all that lightweight material is that they’re not durable. Adidas says the shoes are designed to last for one 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) marathon race plus a warm-up session. Critics say there’s little evidence that the Adidas shoes are much more effective than the Nike shoes.

“We have marketing claims and a pair of promises about improvements,” Ross Tucker, an exercise physiologist, told the New York Times. “We have [Assefa’s] world record in the marathon. But we don’t actually have any evidence, not compared to its peers and certainly not compared to its predecessors.”

Ashley Mateo, a journalist and runner, says she thinks the shoes are effective for her.

“They feel fast, but every runner responds differently to different shoes,” Mateo told the New York Times.

Did You Know?

Ren Pengfei—Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images, Michael Reaves/Getty Images Sport
Tigist Assefa (left) and Kelvin Kiptum are the world’s fastest marathon runners.
Tigist Assefa finished the 2023 Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 11 minutes, and 53 seconds, a world record for women. The men’s world record belongs to Kelvin Kiptum, who completed the 2023 Chicago Marathon in 2 hours and 35 seconds. The average runner takes around four and a half hours to finish a marathon.

How Sneakers Became a Thing

Bill Russell, Walter Dukes, and other NBA players in uniforms jostling for control of the ball.
UPI/Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
In 1961, NBA players wore Converse All Stars on the court.

Anyone who has ever worn a pair of sneakers (or tennis shoes) will tell you that, aside from slippers, no footwear is more comfortable. So it may be hard to believe that sneakers didn’t exist before the 19th century, and they remained a niche thing (worn by only a small number of people) even into the 20th century.

Shoe company Converse got into sneaker-making fairly early when it designed the All Star, a high-top, rubber-soled shoe meant just for basketball players. Debuting in 1917, All Stars are still made today, though they’re a bit different now.

Nike’s Beginnings

Illustration of the goddess Nike wearing Nike Air Jordan sneakers
© Olena/stock.adobe.com, © Bonniecocos/Dreamstime.com; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Sportswear company Nike got its name from the ancient Greek goddess of victory. You can read more about Nike and other Greek gods at Britannica.

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