In recent years, fitness companies have made significant improvements to running gear, from lighter and better-designed shoes to wireless headphones that work even when they’re drenched in sweat. But through all these advancements, one thing has remained peculiarly stuck in the stone age, impervious to full-speed-ahead ingenuity: the runner’s bib. Bibs have remained no more complicated than a piece of paper slapped onto the runner’s chest, pinned down at the corners with a few safety pins, flapping and swishing awkwardly with every stride. It was only a matter of time before someone came along and made it better. Nike has done just that.
The AeroSwift Bib sticks onto clothing or skin, just like the stretchy, breathable kinesiology tape buried in the bottom of your gym bag. Take a closer look at the surface of the tape, however, and you’ll see what makes it so special: tiny 3D-printed plastic teeth, wind-tunnel tested and positioned perfectly for maximum drag resistance.
According to Nike, the AeroSwift system is the most significant advancement in aerodynamic running apparel in years — leaps and bounds faster than the company’s last Olympic-level running apparel development, the Nike Swift Suit, which debuted at the 2012 London Olympics. The potential applications for the AeroSwift’s adhesive aerodynamic teeth (“blades”) reach far beyond runner’s bibs. Nike envisions them being sold as small patches, placed anywhere on the body, for use by any athlete in any sport.
It’s worth noting that today’s runner’s bibs have been mostly replaced by RFID chips. Runners’ numbers have become digital, and the bibs that used to display them are now used primarily for bringing attention to sponsorships or teams. For this reason, a fancy-shmancy bib like the AeroSwift probably only makes sense for Olympic runners. In fact, Nike wanted the bib to make its first appearance in this year’s Rio Olympics. But since it finished development a bit too late in the game, it might be a while longer until we see it on runners.