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Is Nike’s Zoom Vaporfly 4% Helping Elite Runners Break Records?

Nike shoes may actually be making runners faster.

A new study, called “A Comparison of the Energetic Cost of Running in Marathon Racing Shoes,” funded and conducted by Nike Sports Research Lab and Locomotion Lab, shows a possible connection between some of the world’s fastest runners and Nike’s Zoom Vaporfly 4% shoes. The study said the Vaporfly 4% lessens energetic cost of running by an average of 4 percent compared to other marathon racing shoes.

Becoming a faster elite runner boils down to three aspects of running, according to the study: the maximal rate of oxygen uptake, the lactate threshold and the energetic cost, or how much energy it takes.

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% uses a plate that acts as a type of spring, propelling the foot forward—which minimizes the energy exerted.

The newly developed shoe is comprised of a full-length carbon-fiber plate with forefoot curving embedded in the midsole. The study hypothesized that this carbon-fiber plated midsole shoe would allow runners to use less energy compared to two other prototypes. The three prototypes assessed were the previously released Nike Zoom Vaporfly, the Nike Zoom Streak 6 (the shoes that the current world record marathoner Dennis Kimetto wore) and the Adidas Adizero Adios Boost 2.

Based on analysis, researchers predict that athletes wearing the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, will be able to run faster and break records, like running the first sub two hour marathon. The current world record for the fastest run marathon is 2:02:57—meaning a 1:59:59 time would require someone to run 2.5% faster. Nike tried to break the 2 hour marathon record before with its Breaking2 campaign, which used a similar style shoe, the Nike Vaporfly Elite.

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

Nike pointed out that of the 36 possible top-three finishes in the 2017 World Major Marathons, athletes wearing the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% won 19 of them. Breaking that down even further, in Boston, 83 percent of athletes finishing in a top-three spot wore the shoe, while in Chicago and New York eight of the 12 top-three finishers wore the Nike style.

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% shoes will be available in North America and Europe this month online and in select retailers, with new colorways set to roll out next year.