Athletic shoes aren't always up to par with athletes' needs.
Bonnie Chuong/the Gauntlet

U of C research takes big step

High-performance athletic shoes used in London 2012

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Adidas partnered with University of Calgary researchers to design a high-performance shoe. The shoe was designed using technology developed at the U of C and was used by athletes at the London Summer Olympics from July 27 to August 12.

The U of C Kinesiology lab and Adidas produced the Adizero Prime SP to improve athletes’ performance during the games. The final product was based off research collected over the past 15 years.

The research looked into shoe stiffness, traction and foot biomechanics.

U of C kinesiology researcher Darren Stefanyshyn was the leader in the research. He has done work at the U of C’s Human Performance Lab that conducts research based on the human body. 

“We tried to let go of all the previous indications of what a sprint shoe should have or what it should do. Instead, we threw the shoe away and thought, ‘Let’s make a brand new shoe,’ ” said 
Stefanyshyn. “What do we include? What do we eliminate? It’s a revolutionary process, rather than an evolutionary one.”

Researchers at the HPL discovered that the stiffer the shoe is, the better the performance.

“Our foot is designed to do a lot of different things: walk, run, climb, but it’s not really optimized for sprinting. By increasing the stiffness of the shoe, you are increasing the stiffness of the foot and, in very simplistic terms, you almost create a longer lever or a higher gear,” said Stefanyshyn.

The Adizero Prime SP consists of added elements like a landing shelf, which helps guide athletes’ feet to land in a particular way and propels them forward. There were also changes to the shoe’s sole to reduce breaking forces.

The developmental breakthrough of the Adizero Prime SP was due to the use of lightweight carbon nanotubes on the sole. Stefanyshyn explained that the priority of most professional runners and sprinters is a shoe’s lightness. 

According to the Adidas website, the Adizero Prime SP is “the lightest ever sprint spike, weighing just 99 grams.”

The feedback of Adizero Prime SP was very positive and the shoe sold out in a matter of weeks when it debuted.

Going beyond just “elite-level” research, Stefanyshyn hopes that this new technological development becomes readily available so everyone can use it.

“Once we learn certain things, like stiffness of the shoe for sprinting, we can [discover] how it is better for walking as it is for running.”