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How Running Has Changed Athletes and the Environment

The Elusive 2 Hours

When it comes to technology, most people immediately think of electronic devices such as computers and smartphones. It surprises many people that shoes have a similar level of technological development and grow at a similar rate. Companies like Nike and Adidas are introducing revolutionary technology in the shoe market to further increase runners performance in marathons, pushing closer to the dream of breaking two hours. The current record is held by Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge by running a time of two hours one minute thirty nine seconds in Berlin (BBC Sport).

He was wearing the revolutionary Nike Vaporfly 4 percent. An extremely revolutionary shoe that may allow runners to break the elusive two hour marathon. With all these companies producing new technology in shoes that are mass produced for athletes, there has to be some environmental costs, right? By exploring the technology behind shoes and how shoe companies impact the environment, it will be clear just how shoe companies are effecting athletes and the industry as a whole.

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 The Technology

Behind the Runner Eliud Kipchoge and the Nike Vaporfly 4 percent are examples of what running technology can do to improve a runners times across the board. The Nike Vaporfly 4 percent is an extremely revolutionary shoe. The special edition shoe used by Eliud Kipchoge allowed for the bounds of running to be pushed. Kipchoge’s time marked a huge leap in the battle for runners to reach the elusive two hour mark for a marathon. The shoe was based on the Nike Vaporfly 4 percent but it used a special flyknit upper that created the perfect shoe for Kipchoge.

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The version of the Vaporfly available to consumers does not feature the flyknit but it carries the same running technology that helped Kipchoge achieve his time. The Vaporfly 4 percent pairs an extremely cushioned ZoomX midsole paired with a carbon fiber plate to prevent energy loss each step a runner take (Nike). By combining these two features, the shoe earns its name: 4 percent.

The shoe is four percent more efficient than Nike’s previous marathon shoe. Before the release of the Vaporfly 4 percent, Nike’s running shoes were behind competing brands. This caused top marathon runners to run their races in other brands. After the exclusive release for professional runners, everything changed. In the 2017 Boston Marathon, the shoe took first, second, and third for the male elite group, while taking first and third in the women’s elite group (Nike). This race marked Nike’s huge leap into running and brought back the goal of running a marathon sub two hours. Not only does the shoe appeal to top tier runners, but it also has high reviews from much more casual runners. One reviewer on reported that the shoe really made them feel like a faster runner, saying the shoe had “Incredible cushioning to weight ratio with new ZoomX foam”(Caughlan).

Reviewers give the shoe really high reviewers because they felt like the shoe increased its lightweight abilities while maintaining the key comfort components of any other running shoe. Moving to the other end of the running shoe spectrum, Nike’s main competitor, Adidas, has recently revolutionized running and comfortability with their boost technology. Paired with leading chemical company BASF, Adidas designed a mid sole that helped it reclaim its place as a powerhouse in the running shoe community (HYPEBEAST). Through science, a material called TPU was formed into the soft and squishy energy beads that make up the midsole of Adidas shoes. This shoe engineering was made to yield the “highest energy return to that of any runner currently on the market” (HYPEBEAST). After several tests, the new boost delivered a far more consistent run than most companies standard EVA material. This technology would change the running market forever. The earliest rendition of the boost was in 2013 when it featured in the EnergyBOOST, where the shoe fell into favor with many runners.

The technology made Adidas running shoes the softest shoes on the market, a huge selling point for any runner. But the mission didn’t stop there. Because of how comfortable the shoes were, boost made its transition to the casual consumer market too. With the help of Kanye West, any shoe featuring boost was also a stylish casual shoe; making Adidas running shoes a true hybrid shoe (HYPEBEAST). The technology can be found in some of the most recognizable shoes in the game, most notably, the Yeezy Boost. While these shoes are kept in pristine condition by owners, they are still made for athletic wear and you can occasionally find the one wild soul who wears them to the gym. As a technology as a whole though, the boost is still huge in the running world, with many runners choosing Adidas as the staple of their running attire.

Shoe Technology

Sustainability In November of 2016, Adidas committed to one million pairs of their Ultraboost shoes using Parley Ocean Plastic. The company has been working with sustainability group Parley for the Oceans since 2015. Their goals was to develop new technology within their shoes to up-cycle ocean plastics and debris (Just-Style). By surpassing this goal, Adidas has proved that shoes can be made with recycled materials. The Ultraboost is an extremely popular running shoe with runners looking for comfortability. The boost material is extremely soft and absorbs great amounts of shock to give runners maximum comfortability while running. The recycled shoe features the same features but instead of industrial products, the shoe uses recycled products, performing at the same level as the normal shoes. The Primeknit upper is made with a mix of ocean plastic, which is retrieved through Parley clean up sites in the Maldives, as well as a recycled polyester. For each pair of shoes produced, eleven plastic bottles are recycled. There are many more companies than Adidas that are being environmentally friendly and using recycling products.

Companies like Z shoes have solely committed to making sustainable shoes that can be mass produced. Z shoes started in the amazon and has deep connections with the tribes in the Peruvian Amazon. The company buys their products at fair trade value from the local tribes to support their economies. To further their giving back, Z shoes gives five dollars back to the communities to help them build better infrastructure and houses for the tribes. The company also health care and education by working with “working with global NGO Not For Sale to create a lasting impact with the communities that are part of the Z family”(Z Shoes). It’s not just Adidas who is looking to be environmentally friendly either, companies like Nike are taking the initiative too. In May of 2016, the company said that 71 percent of its footwear are made with waste from their manufacturing line (Lewontin). The company also reduced its carbon emissions by a staggering 18 percent for each product that leaves the manufacturing line. These changes tie into Nike and other companies support of EPA’s climate change rule. By 2030, Nike plans to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent from its 2005 levels (Barron-Lopez). The innovations and philanthropic ideas that shoe companies have are staggering; it really shows how community orientated these companies can be!


It is mesmerizing to see what shoe companies have done recently to help cater to needs of athletes and the consumer markets while reducing their carbon footprints. Not only can a corporate giant like Nike or Adidas provide runners with record breaking shoes, but they also can produce the high tech shoes while lowering their impact on the environment. It is extremely rare that a company can continue to revolutionize an industry and become more aware of their impact on the environment. If all companies tried to mirror the model of Nike and Adidas, we can continue to revolutionize the world we live in while keeping the world’s climate in shape for our future generations.


  • “An Exploratory Look at Adidas’s Revolutionary BOOST Technology.” HYPEBEAST, HYPEBEAST, 18 Feb. 2017,
  • Barron-Lopez, L. (2014). Nike, Ikea join 221 companies in support of EPA’s climate rule. p. 12. Caughlan, Thomas. “Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Review.” Running Shoes Guru, 11 Oct. 2018, “Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%.” Nike News, 18 Apr. 2017,
  • “Eliud Kipchoge Sets New Marathon World Record in Berlin – BBC Sport.” BBC News, BBC,
  • Hoogkamer, W., Kipp, S., Frank, J., Farina, H., Luo, E., & Kram, M. (2018). A Comparison of the Energetic Cost of Running in Marathon Racing Shoes. Sports Medicine,48(4), 1009-1019. Hoogkamer, Wouter, et al.
  • “A Comparison of the Energetic Cost of Running in Marathon Racing Shoes.” SpringerLink, Springer, 16 Nov. 2017, Lewontin, M. (2016).
  • Why Nike is making most shoes from manufacturing waste.(Energy/Environment).
  • The Christian Science Monitor, p. The Christian Science Monitor, May 11, 2016. Woolf, Jake, and Nils Ericson. “Adidas Boost: the Sneaker Technology That Changed a Company’s Fortunes.” GQ, GQ, 1 Feb. 2018,
  • Wright, Beth. “Adidas Sells 1m Ocean Waste Running Shoes.” Apparel Industry News | Just-Style, 19 Mar. 2018 “| Z Shoes Organic | Sustainable Shoes – Impact Sourcing.” Z Shoes Organic,

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How Running Has Changed Athletes and the Environment. (2021, Apr 14). Retrieved from

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