You know how NASCAR’s race cars all derive from commercially available Fords, Chevys and the like? The same thing appears to be happening in the marathon racing world, in response to new World Athletics rules dictating what shoes can be worn in sanctioned competitions such as the Tokyo Olympics, which begin July 24th.
Along with stringent product specs — like how many carbon plates can be used (one) and how high the sole can be (40 millimeters) — the rules stipulate that shoes must be commercially available for at least four months to be legal for competitive use. Hence, all the new Air Zooms Nike teased last week, and today, dueling carbon fiber shoe announcements from two other major running brands, Adidas and New Balance.
From what we can tell, both launches have much to offer serious runners, in somewhat different ways. Here’s a quick look at the highlights of the new Adidas adizero Pro and New Balance FuelCell TC.
Adidas adizero Pro
Adidas has seen loads of distance-running success with its adizero line, dating back to Haile Gebrselassie breaking the men’s marathon world record in 2008. More recently, adizeros wrapped the feet of Mary Keitany when she broke the women’s record in 2017 and Rhonex Kipruto when he laid down the 10K record last month.
For the latest iteration, Adidas re-teamed with Japanese running shoe guru Yoshitori Omori to reshape the shoe and loaded it with fast, efficient tech. Newsworthy features include Lightstrike, an ultralight TPU foam noted for its energy return capability, and a Carbitex carbon plate, engineered to encourage springy toe-offs that keep your feet flying smoothly and efficiently.
Two other notable elements are the super-thin Celermesh upper, which minimizes weight while maximizing a reliable fit, and the brand’s beloved Boost foam in the heel to add a level of comfort that should be much appreciated over 26.2 miles.
The adizero Pro will become available online and in select markets on April 1st and worldwide on May 15th. Lest you fear that would leave it ineligible for the Olympics, it’s worth noting that the women’s and men’s marathons don’t take place until August 8th and 9th, respectively.
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New Balance FuelCell TC
As opposed to a lot of recent launches, New Balance is positioning the TC as not only a competition shoe but also a training option, giving it a broad appeal for both recreational and competitive runners.
It’s essentially a more durable racing flat, with similar qualities to the FuelCell 5280, which Jenny Simpson wore to win her eighth Fifth Avenue Mile title last year, in record time. It features a full-length carbon plate (of course), a breathable mesh upper and a tough rubber outsole. Our own Meg Lappe got a chance to try the TC out while doing a 7 x 1000 speed workout at marathon pace, and here are her initial thoughts:
“They feel more stable than Nike’s Next%s, more like shoes you can wear for more than just your big marathon debut.
“I felt propelled forward, even during warm ups. I’m a forefoot striker and the plate was very tangible throughout the entire workout. I tried swapping to a heel strike and the heel is just super soft. I would recommend this shoe more for forefoot strikers than heel strikers, as you feel the most bounce back/energy return in the forefoot.”
“The shape is very similar to the FuelCell Rebel, which I love for speed workouts, but this one feels better suited to long-distance training runs than speed work.”
The FuelCell TC dropped February 14th, but is currently sold out on New Balance’s site.
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