Lenn Hann was walking through O’Hare International Airport late one night when he came to a moving rubber walkway. An avid sports enthusiast and past marathon runner, Hann was curious about how the walkway would serve as a running surface. He set his bags down, took off his shoes and began running.
According to the Kickstarter page for Hann’s carbon fiber-suspension shoe, the engineer was surprised to find he felt less pain and fatigue. Two hours later, he had run a half marathon. Inspired by that rubber walkway surface, he spent decades developing a sneaker that replicated the feeling he had that night.
Hann unveiled the culmination of all that work late last month when he launched Hann Shoes on Kickstarter. The resulting sneakers, the campaign claims, reduce pain and fatigue for runners, as well as everyday people.
Hann Shoes rely on an increasingly ubiquitous material in performance running footwear: carbon fiber. Each shoe sports two ellipses made with the material, one under the heel and the other toward the front of the foot. According to the footwear startup, these ellipses create a “trampoline-like effect” by storing energy from ground contact and returning it back to wearers as they continue forward. In reducing the energy needed to move, it said, overall systemic oxygen consumption decreases, allowing wearers to increase their performance.
Hann Shoes said its sneakers can relieve fatigue and pain for a range of people beyond runners, including medical professionals, floor traders and service industry workers. By constantly compressing and expanding, it said, the sneakers are always working to relieve muscle tension, providing relief whether the wearer is running or standing.
Hann Shoes also touted the carbon-composite suspension’s role in extending the lifespan of its shoes. According to the startup, its shoes last twice as long—600 to 1,000 miles—as traditional running shoes.
Since launching on Jan. 25, Hann Shoes has raised more than $30,000, well surpassing its $25,000 goal with more than five weeks to go. The sneakers, available in men’s and women’s, are expected to deliver in October. Though Hann Shoes has priced its footwear at $300, Kickstarter backers can buy the shoes for $99 if they get in on at the cheapest tier.
Numerous shoe brands have turned to carbon fiber composites for some of their highest-performing running models. Among these lines is The North Face’s new trail-running family Vectiv. The outdoor brand said it teamed with 14 athletes to put the design through more than 6,000 miles of testing, setting 17 records along the way.
Hoka One One’s Carbon X line embeds a carbon fiber plate in its midsole to “provide a smooth and propulsive ride through the gait cycle for an efficient stride over many miles,” the running brand said. The most recent iteration, the Carbon X 2, was put to the ultimate test last month as more than three dozen runners wearing the silhouette attempted to break the 100K (62.2-mile) world record. The lead runner, Jim Walmsley, ended the race just 11 seconds short.