NEW YORK — Galen Rupp had a secret weapon when he toed the line at Monday’s rain-soaked Boston Marathon: a spanking new shoe from Nike featuring a proprietary 3-D-printed textile that is intended to more effectively wick water. And although he failed to finish, it had more to do with his nutrition than his footwear.
Called the FlyPrint, the sneaker is the latest iteration to be birthed from the Zoom Vaporfly Elite, the shoe worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he ran the fastest marathon ever last year.
Kipchoge was one of three Nike athletes in the brand’s highly publicized Breaking2 project who had attempted to break the two-hour marathon barrier. The Kenyan, who is also the defending Olympic champion, ran 2:00:25 in a private race on a Formula One track in Italy on May 6, 2017, wearing the Vaporfly Elite. His record for the race, which also used a team of pacesetters, was not recognized by the sport’s governing body, so four months later, Kipchoge was ready to take another shot at breaking the world record of 2:02:57 at the flat and fast Berlin Marathon. He won, but in a time of 2:03:32.
One of the problems was heavy rain and 99 percent humidity during the race, which didn’t sit well with the Vaporfly Elite shoes he was wearing. So Nike’s engineers and designers got to work on addressing the problem. And the result is the Nike FlyPrint, which sports a 3-D printed upper.
Kipchoge will wear the shoe when he runs the London Marathon on April 22.
“This started with a focus on the elite athlete,” said Brett Holts, vice president of running footwear for Nike. “We started with Eliud and then opened it up to our other athletes.”
Roger Chen, senior director of digital innovation, said Nike had been using 3-D printed technology for over a decade, but it was primarily for internal purposes to develop prototypes. But now, the brand upped the ante and employed the technology to create a textile for more-commercial purposes.
Informed by athlete data, the company changed the algorithm of the 3-D machine to control speed, heat and how the material is laid to create FlyPrint, which Nike boasts is the first 3-D-printed textile in performance footwear.
The new shoe is 12 grams, or 6 percent lighter than the Vaporfly Elite, and has a more-efficient moisture-wicking ability, Chen explained.
Holtz said that although the creation of the shoe was for Nike’s elite running squad, “we see it as an additional tool for lightweight uppers for the future.” In fact, a small commercial run of the shoe will be available to the public during the London Marathon. The price will be $600.
“We’re just building the machinery now, but we see this becoming scalable in 2019 and moving beyond racing flats,” Holtz said.
It also speaks to the whole move toward personalization in both footwear and apparel. “That’s the vision for the industry,” Holtz said. “And this capability moves us closer to that.”