SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2009 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2009 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM
We asked the real experts— sportspersons and active businessmen—for their favourites
YUKI BHAMBRI TENNIS PLAYER B Y K RISH R AGHAV firstname.lastname@example.org
uying a shoe isn’t what it used to be. The footwear you now sport is no longer just an accessory, but a device—a container full of secret patents and arcane technology, the science powering them the result of long, dedicated, arduous research. So when Nike’s new Lunarglide is accompanied by a marketing campaign that says it is, indeed, rocket science, it’s not just clever wordplay. From football shoes that can be broken down and remade to special shoes made for discerning motorcyclists, we look at four new shoes that make your cellphone seem about as complicated as a hammer.
Four new shoes, eight new technologies. The science of footwear just got very complicated
“I wear the Adidas Barricade tennis shoe and I’ve been wearing it for the last couple of years. Once your feet break into it, it is the most comfortable shoe to wear. It is also more durable than the other shoes available. I’ve also felt that the cushioning has helped my feet as I have to do a lot of change in direction on hard surfaces while playing tennis. Plus, they look good on the court and new models are always coming out every few months.” (Yuki Bhambri has an endorsement deal with Adidas)
BADMINTON PLAYER Varuni Khosla and Pavitra Jayaraman contributed to this story.
Q&A | BILL McINNIS, REEBOK INTERNATIONAL Rs3,2995,999
NIKE LUNARGLIDE T:17.5”
Rs6,995 for men, Rs6,500 for women
one of the above,” he says. The ethereallynamed substance is a midsole filled with special foam that adapts to the arch and gait of the foot, adjusting the balance of comfort and stability to changing external conditions such as weather and terrain. “Your stride differs based on various factors—fatigue, slope, the surface you’re running on,” Gangopadhyay says. “The shoe automatically adapts to these changes.” Aiding this is Flywire, a technology inspired by the unlikeliest of sources. “It’s a method of making shoes lighter modelled on how suspension bridges, like the new Howrah Bridge, are constructed.” Suspension bridges reduce dependence on large concrete pillars by engineering wireframe structures around pressure points. That same principle, applied to a shoe, results in a reduction in material use of nearly 30-40% from the upper sole.
ike’s Lunarglide, the company says, is the next “big revolution” in running footwear. “Running shoes are the largest commercial opportunity in footwear in India,” says Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director of Nike India Pvt. Ltd. “Not everyone who runs here is running a marathon, but even with training and in gyms, they feel the need to use running shoes.” The Lunarglide uses a combination of special materials and unique construction to make it lighter than most running shoes. Runners, says Gangopadhyay, have traditionally had to choose between stability, a fit that lasts for extended periods of time, or cushioning which makes the shoe lightweight and comfortable. “With Lunarlite (the new technology), you don’t have to choose just
DARK GLIDE OF THE MOON N
PUMA EN ROUTE DUCATI NO NICHE LEFT BEHIND
hen shoes claim to be rocket science, We make appropriate changes based on who better to ask about them than Bill that feedback and retest until we have a McInnis, who’s done both. A former Nasa product that delivers on its promise. Some of engineer who worked on the space shuttle our lab testing includes multi-directional programme, McInnis is now managing force plate testing (force plates measure reacdirector of advanced research at Reebok. He tions generated by the shoe on a flat surface, and his team developed EasyTone, the new and are usually used to analyse posture and Reebok shoe that claims to tone your leg gait), mechanical impact testing (to measure and butt muscles—all you have to do is to specific cushioning attributes over time) and wear and use them normally. The shoe has EMG (electromyography) testing that measembedded miniature “balance balls” under ures the muscle activity of individual musthe sole which create what McInnis calls cles. EMG testing is where our “28-11-11% “micro-instabilities”, forcing your leg mus- more muscle activity” data (28% more activcles to adapt, resulting in them having to ity when compared with normal shoes) Introducing work 28% more than usual. Edited excerpts comes from. We compared muscle activity from an interview: walking in EasyTone versus muscle activity wearing conventional The shoes that help tone key butt and leg muscles with every step.foam-based shoes. How EasyTone How different is the science behind, Take thewas gym with youconceptualized? at www.shop4reebok.com The initial concept was built on the founda- for example, a football shoe and a runtion of a technology Reebok had in the early ning shoe? 1990s called “dynamic cushioning” which We start with a different “last” for each sport was an air-transfer cushioning system. or activity. The last is the foot-shaped form The idea of balance training also played that the shoe is built around and we vary a role at this early stage. The fastest grow- internal volumes and heights based on the fit ing trend in gyms is stability training using and activity needed for each individual sport. balance balls, which deliberately introThe midsole/outsole designs of footwear duce instability, so we decided to use this products vary considerably from sport to technique in the shoe. You can see the sport as well. A football shoe and a running DNA of a balance ball in the outsole shoe are very different in both the above design of the EasyTone. cases. The fit and shape of a football boot is What is the foundation of the science much tighter, with less padding and stiffer of shoes? materials (versus a running shoe) as the preThe science of shoes is really the intersec- mium is on keeping the foot centred on the tion of biomechanics (how the body func- plate and providing proper ball-feel. The tions) and mechanical engineering (how a cleated bottom is obviously different but device functions). We start with a concept there is almost no cushioning in a football statement of what we’d like the shoe to boot due to both the surface (grass or turf) deliver from a functional standpoint and and the need for energy return. A running what it should do for the athlete. The chal- shoe has a primary focus on the underfoot lenging part (and the science and research) platform with designs tailored for individual is in turning that concept idea into a physi- styles like motion control or stability shoes. cal shoe that delivers on that statement. What role does the material play? What sort of tests and stress runs do you Materials may be altered considerably from put prototype shoes through? What sport to sport, as I mentioned earlier; howparameters do you test them on? ever, EasyTone’s differentiation is more We test all of our concepts extensively. Easy- focused on the bottom unit. Inside the two Tone had over 16,000 hours of consumer prominent pods on the outsole is a two-pod wear-testing. Our wear-tests consist of con- moving air chamber. The ambient air inside sumers living with the shoe for over 300 hours the air chamber travels back and forth of wearing. We ask a full battery of questions underneath the foot at the same rate as the at the beginning, middle and end of the test consumer’s stride. This is in addition to the periods to determine what people like and/or normal foam and rubber platforms found in dislike about the product over time. most athletic footwear.
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
sk the folks at Adidas what the perfect football shoe is, and they give you a cryptic Douglas Adams answer. It’s 36. Both striker Lionel Messi and attacking midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who use Adidas’ range of football shoes, swear by that number. So what’s the secret to the answer? Another cryptic phrase: TUNIT. “TUNIT is the name of the technology that allows us to make modular shoes,” says Tushar Goculdas, director of marketing and sales for Adidas India. That means each separate component of the shoe—the studs, the upper, the chassis and the insole—can be customized according to the ground and weather conditions, making shoes like the f50i, which belong to the TUNIT range, not just one, but 36 different possible shoes. “On dew-filled grounds, for example, you’d go for longer studs, but in summer, those will hurt your foot, so you switch to shorter, flatter studs.”
hile most shoe companies would be content with shoe solutions for sports that involve running around a field, Puma doesn’t seem to believe in leaving out the others. Take the En Route Ducati, a red and black leather shoe built…wait, for the “discerning motorcyclist”. “It’s specifically designed for our motorbike customers,” says Rajiv Mehta, the managing director of Puma India. “With its smart ergonomics, this will sharpen the interface between man and machine.” What that means is a specially designed outsole with an integrated shifter and peg supports, an arched design suited for long rides, shoelaces hidden within the rim to prevent unfortunate tangles and, of course, an endorsement from bike-makers Ducati. Puma supplies gear for Ferrari and the Ducati racing teams, and what began as a special project to provide footwear for specific everyday challenges faced by racers has now expanded into an entire division of products aimed at motorsports fans. “It will go very well with your leathers and denims,” says Mehta.
But even 36 is a small number when you consider Adidas’ careful delineation of football shoes. “We have three different families of shoes, depending on playing styles,” says Goculdas. The aforementioned TUNIT is favoured by flamboyant strikers and wingers, and is much lighter than the other two families. The Predator range, developed in close association with Zinedine Zidane, and used famously by David Beckham and Stephen Gerrard, focuses more on swerve and power, and has rubber fins in the front for smoother grip and the ability to swing free kicks. “The Predators feature a unique weight mechanism, we have free flowing lead granules inside a chamber in the shoe, which shift the weight depending on the play,” says Goculdas. The third family, called Adipure, is the retro football shoe—simple and allleather. The more “traditional” players, such as Frank Lampard and Kaka, favour this, says Goculdas. “There’s technology in it, but not too much.”
“Shoes are very important to me. A good pair can literally keep you in good health for a long time. My two favourite running shoes are Nike Air and Asics. While I’m running, I don’t like to feel the impact and these shoes provide great cushioning and prevent injuries to the ankle, knee and back. Asics, specially, has a very good fit.”
CORPORATE VP OF COMMUNITY INITIATIVES, WIPRO “I use Nike’s basic range of running shoes now. I’ve realized that all these shoe companies, they’ve built in too many fancy features into their new shoes. From a running standpoint, you don’t really require all of them. I just try them all out and figure what I’m most comfortable with. My sense is that the marginal return on any shoe over Rs3,0004,000 is not much. I don’t find much of a difference between, say, a Rs3,5004,000 shoe and a Rs7,000 shoe in India retail prices.”
FORMER NATIONAL LONG JUMP AND HEPTATHLON CHAMPION “I have been using the Nike Vomero for the past year and a half and think I’ll stick with it. It is well cushioned and so takes the pressure off my knee. It took me just a couple of days to break into the shoes, so that was perfect. Also, my feet are slightly broad and not all women’s shoes fit me very well and the Vomero makes a comfortable match. I also like my shoes to be of a lighter colour like grey and the pair I own fits the bill.”
LEO SCRIVNER VP OF HUMAN RESOURCES, CISCO GLOBALIZATION CENTRE
“My favourite training shoes are New Balance. I find them relatively lightweight, yet very durable and comfortable. I can run for several hundred miles before they feel worn, whereas several other name brand shoes seem to simply wear out very quickly and do not provide the level of comfort a New Balance shoe does for me. I prefer the 900 or 1000 series shoes.”
The science of shoes.