Puma has teamed up with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team to release what it’s billing as its “fastest, lightest and most propulsive track [and] field spike to date.”
The German sportswear brand developed its new Faster+ platform with Olympic athletes like Canadian sprinter André De Grasse and Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm. Learnings and advances from the program were also integrated into other track and field spikes for athletes such as Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh, Swedish pole vaulter Armand “Mondo” Duplantis and Swiss sprinter Ajla Del Ponte.
Warholm—the world record holder in the 400-meter hurdles as of July 1—said he became involved in the project after hearing about the brand’s work with Mercedes. Intrigued by the rumors, he picked up the phone and called Puma CEO Bjørn Gulden, a fellow Norwegian, and said he wanted to join in.
“Once I signed with Puma, actually, he promised me that I would have the best spikes in the world and now here we are with the world record, so I guess he had a point then,” Warholm said Monday at a press event showcasing the Faster+ series.
Erin Longin, Puma’s global director of running and training, said the Faster+ spikes were born from the brand’s athletes’ desire for lightness and propulsion. To meet that demand, the company looked to its long-time partner Mercedes-AMG and how it was building its Formula 1 cars. Specifically, it was interested in the performance automaker’s use of a material that has become increasingly commonplace in the most serious racing shoes: carbon fiber.
With the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team’s help, Longin said Puma was able to add a very thin layer of carbon fiber that’s both “extremely” light and “very” strong, and enables runners to increase stride length and frequency. To incorporate additional lightweight stability, Puma weaved carbon fiber threads through the midfoot.
“We really found the lightest solutions and removed everything that the athletes do not need to build a race car version of a spike,” Longin said.
Neil Carlisle, non-F1 program manager for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team, said the design team faced two main challenges developing the Faster+ design: the pandemic—some of the first iterations had to be tested at a school playground due to last year’s lockdown—and getting the carbon fiber to flex where they wanted it to.
Ultimately, it appears Puma and Mercedes-AMG’s work has paid off. Earlier this month, Warholm broke the world record for the 400-meter hurdles, edging past American hurdler Kevin Young’s 29-year-old record.
Longin said working with Warholm was key in developing the Faster+ platform. “The hurdles are such a challenging event where you have such strong forces going around the curves and extreme impacts during the landing phase when you’re coming down from the hurdles,” she said. Confronting these issues helped Puma later on as it fine-tuned its footwear across track and field.
Armand “Mondo” Duplantis received one of these other specialized spikes. The pole vaulter said he had told Puma that the main thing he cared about was weight. “I had a problem when I was younger up until maybe I was a teenager that I used to not jump with spikes just because I never felt like there was a spike out there that was light enough for me.”
Receiving Puma’s Faster+ spikes, he said, he could feel they would work, even just holding them in his hands. On his first sprints down the runway, the shoes felt “basically like barefoot,” while at the same time maintaining “that perfect support,” he said.
So far, Puma has only released its Faster+ spikes—including the Evospeed Tokyo Future Faster+ worn by Warholm and the Evospeed Tokyo Future Nitro Faster+ developed for André De Grasse—in limited quantities and all have sold out.
Puma took another major step toward advancing its performance footwear selection in March year when it jumpstarted its distance and road running category with the launch of five new silhouettes. Uniting all five styles was the presence of the brand’s new Nitro foam, a material it said maintained the same responsiveness of traditional EVA foam while cutting weight in half. Like the Faster+ line, two of the styles employed carbon fiber.
Puma’s partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team is not the only time the brand has embraced the world of high-end cars. Last month, it debuted the Ferrari ION F sneaker, drawing inspiration from some of the sportscar’s most iconic features. In November, it launched a limited-edition collection of shoes inspired by eight generations of the Porsche 911 Turbo sports car.