The first comment when images of Nike’s newest track spike started making their way around the office? “Hmm thought the image just didn’t finish loading.” And one could easily be forgiven for that notion, considering that the blade at the bottom front of the Air Zoom Viperfly just kinda tails… off. But as with almost all Nike performance footwear, there’s science behind it.
Uniquely crafted for the 100-meter dash, the Viperfly features a carbon fiber plate imbued with new Custom Fiber Placement tech, which enables a range of flex within the plate. The specific variances of carbon are based on thorough research of the race distance, and combined with the streamlined Air Zoom forefoot pod, the design should provide optimal energy return during the critical last 20 meters of the sprint, when races are won and legends are born.
Rounding out the shoe’s construction is the latest version of Nike’s flexible Flyknit upper (rebranded Atomknit), which represents minimal weight, plus a bit of foam in the heel to help sprinters transition to walking once the race has been run.
It’s worth noting that the Viperfly is just one of several new Olympics-oriented shoes the brand just announced. There’s also the Air Zoom Victory (a more traditional-looking track shoe for longer sprint races), the Air Zoom BB NXT (a basketball shoe), the Air Zoom Mercurial (a soccer shoe) and the Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, an Olympics-eligible running shoe that follows in the footsteps of what Eliud Kipchoge wore to break two hours in the marathon.
Unlike that shoe, this new version conforms to the new World Athletics rules dictating what shoes can be worn in sanctioned competitions such as the Tokyo Olympics, which begin July 24th. The Alphafly NEXT% has just one embedded carbon plate and a sole height right at the maximum allowed thickness of 4o millimeters. It will go on sale later this month, as only shoes that are commercially available for at least four months can be used in competition.
The shoe we are really keeping an eye on, though, is the Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% (below), which not only looks a little less funky, but is also designed for more frequent, training-oriented use, rather than one all-or-nothing 26.2 miler.