[Editor’s Note: Paul is on his annual August break from site. Deputy editor Phil Hecken is in charge from now through the end of the month, although Paul may be popping up here occasionally.]
By Phil Hecken, with Harrison Huntley
Hey everyone — hope you guys had a good weekend and you’re staying healthy and safe.
As some of you know, I am (now) a runner — I wasn’t always; in fact, I actually started running a few years ago when I hit the half-century mark. I never much enjoyed it (and sometimes still don’t) but it’s a good way to get in cardio and try to keep the ol’ spare tire off, which happens when you hit middle age. When I started, I was clocking something like 11.5 min/miles, and if I could do two miles, that was a lot. I now run almost every day, between 3 and 5 miles, and I average around 8:20/mi, which isn’t great, but then again, I’m 54 and I’m not doing it for anyone but myself.
When I first started running, I wore whatever “running” shoes I could find at DSW, and never gave much thought to the technology involved. Then, three years or so ago, an adidas rep sent me a pair of “Ultra Boost” sneakers. On my first run, I immediately trimmed 30 sec/mi. off my run times. At first I thought it was a fluke, but after consistently running much faster times, I realized at had to be the technology that went into the sneakers. I’m now on my fifth pair (here are four pictured) and I don’t think I’ll ever run in another shoe. What a difference.
Anyway, when today’s guest author, Harrison Huntley, approached me with a story idea which read, in part …
I was wondering if UW has ever done a story about running, or maybe specifically running shoes? Over the last couple years, shoe companies have been reinventing the tech behind running shoes, especially since Nike has been creating shoes specifically to break the 2 hour marathon mark. Shoes are getting more and more specialized, and I would love to shed some light on the different brands and their technology (similar to the way you guys preview a tennis tournament)
…I immediately thought of my own running shoe experience and thought this would be a fun lede. I know some of our readers are runners (pals Chance Michaels & Mike Styczen have run marathons, and I know buddy Kary Klismet also runs, among others), so hopefully you all you fine readers will enjoy this piece. Let’s get started. Here’s Harrison:
By Harrison Huntley
I started running a little more than 10 years ago when I was in the 8th grade. At the time, I was more interested in how a running shoe looked than how it actually helped me perform. Ever since my competitive running career came to an end, I’ve become obsessed with the different ideas and preferences behind each running shoe brand.
In the last couple years, most running shoe companies have done a complete 180 in terms of their technology. Prior to the shift, racing shoes were supposed to have as little cushioning as needed, which of course varied by distance. But in 2017, Nike released the Vaporfly, a shoe featuring a large amount of lightweight foam surrounding a carbon fiber plate. Without going into a ton of detail, the plate helps the runner turn over their stride faster and easier, which increases running efficiency.
For runners who “Get It”, the recent World Athletics (IAAF) ruling was pretty exciting. Professional runners can no longer run in crazy, unreleased prototypes. The new rules require the shoe be available to the public, meaning that just about anyone can purchase top of the line running shoes and try them out for themselves.
Unlike many sports’ uniforms, these carbon fiber plated shoes are actually helping athletes turn in faster race times and more efficient conditioning. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of what each brand has done with this tech. To save some time, most of these shoes share three things in common: A carbon fiber plate, some version of lightweight foam, and a geometry to help runners turn over their strides easier/faster.
The whole carbon fiber racing movement can trace its roots back to 2017, when Nike introduced the first Vaporfly as part of their Breaking2 campaign. Nike recently released the Alphafly as a bigger and better Vaporfly. The shoes have the same ZoomX foam and a similar carbon fiber plate, but there are a few notable differences. The most drastic difference between the two shoes is the Zoom Air units on the forefoot, an element Nike has been known for decades. Nike went the extra mile as the Alphafly’s carbon fiber place is also scaled for each shoe size, unlike the Vaporfly’s one-size fits all plate. Most Nike shoes these days feature a Flyknit upper, a light woven fabric, but the Alphafly boasts a lighter version that Nike has dubbed AtomKnit that is lighter and more breathable than ever.
Adidas fought against the carbon fiber movement for awhile, even going so far as to release their non-plated response to the Vaporfly, the Sub2. Once it was clear that carbon fiber plated shoes were undoubtedly faster than others, Adidas acquiesed with the Adizero Adios Pro. Instead of a single plate, Adidas has placed five carbon-infused rods in the sole with the LightstrikePro midsole surrounding them. The shoe released a little over a month ago and only a few have been seen in the wild so far.
Widely regarded as the Vaporfly’s biggest challenger at launch, the Saucony Endorphin Pro is actually part of a three-shoe suite of Saucony Endorphins. The Pro is the racer while the Speed is a speed workout shoe, and the Shift is the daily trainer. Saucony covered their carbon fiber plate in their lightweight foam called PWRRUN PB. The upper is almost exactly like Saucony’s track spikes, making it thin and breathable. It looks (and feels) the most like the Nike Vaporfly thanks to the SPEEDROLL geometry and an all-around similar construction.
The fastest shoe we’ve ever built.
And it’s now here for pre-order with select retail partners. And for sale on https://t.co/abknGvnezd TOMORROW. Let the good runs roll. #EndorphinPro #RunForGood pic.twitter.com/Z6YWF99c66
— Saucony (@saucony) May 18, 2020
The most interesting process so far belongs to Brooks.Similar to Saucony, they released the Hyperion Tempo for speed workouts and the Hyperionn Elite as the racer. While the Tempo was widely regarded as a high-end trainer, the Elite left many scratching their heads. Was this the shoe Brooks’ gave to its elite runners to compete with Nike and Saucony? Apparently no, as the Hyperion Elite 2 was recently announced and confirmed to be the shoe worn by Brooks’ sponsored athletes in the US Olympic Marathon trials (before the recent WA rule took effect). The major complaint of the Elite 1 was that it wasn’t soft, responsive, or supportive. Early returns on the Elite 2 indicate that they’ve fixed the issue, but amateur runners will have to wait on its September 1st launch.
Many runners love New Balance’s FuelCell line of shoes for their uniquely shaped midsoles. So the natural next step was to put a carbon-fiber plate in that shoe with the Fuel Cell TC. What makes this shoe different than others is it’s meant for both training and racing, or Training and Competition as the acronym says. As is traditional for New Balance, this shoe is a little heavier and stability-focused than other racers, but plenty of runners prefer that, especially if this is a training shoe.
Most of these shoes are extremely cushioned with a tall stack height. The ASICS MetaRacer bucks that trend with a sleek, minimal design. It’s still got the carbon fiber plate and a midsole based in ASICS’s Flytefoam, but it takes several cues from ASICS’ daily trainer, the GlideRide, including the Guidesole geometry to help propel you forward. Many runners consider this a 5K-10K kind of shoe instead of a marathoner, but that doesn’t mean it won’t show up in marathons. Overall, runners have heralded this shoe as feeling like a racing flat while offering the advantages of a carbon fiber plated shoe.
HOKA ONE ONE
HOKA pioneered the ultra-cushioned “maximalist” shoes in 2009, so adding a carbon fiber plate wasn’t as much of a challenge for them. They debuted the Carbon X back in 2019 to aid their own Jim Walmsley in his quest for the 100K world record. If ASICS is perhaps a shoe for less than a marathon, HOKA’s shoe is built for much more than a marathon. A shoe with this weight and cushioned will work in a marathon, but it’s more designed for the ultra-marathon category. For that reason, it’s been adopted as a long-distance trainer for many runners who race in other models. This year, HOKA released the Carbon X SPE that adds an even lighter upper, specifically for racing, along with the plated lower of the Carbon X.
Many people who know Sketchers for their ads with Tony Romo might not expect Sketchers to make a performance-oriented running shoe. But if you watch any major marathon, you might know that Sketchers outfits Meb Keflezighi, one of the greatest American runners of our time. Sketchers’ GOrun Speed Elite Hyper comes with the longest name of these shoes. Their lightweight foam is called Hyperburst, which is a little more firm than that of its competitors. The upper is made of a mesh that’s so lightweight you can actually see through it (similar to the Alphafly). Sketchers bucked the trend by putting a carbon fiber infused plate in their shoe, which along with its firmer foam, makes more a stiffer but lighter shoe.
One of the newest shoe companies in the game also boasts one of the newest carbon fiber plated racers on the market, the Cloudboom. The shoe features On’s signature cloud-like sole that is certainly a “love it or hate it” design with the individual “clouds”. A thin, flexible plate splits the shoe’s sole and mid, while a firm foam makes up the mid with a very light upper rounds out the shoe. Like its ASICS counterpart, this shoe falls on the skinnier side of these racing shoes, but will undoubtedly make an appearance in international marathons (when those resume).
Great rundown (pun kinda-intended) Harrison! Now I’m not sure whether or not to stick with my Ultra Boosts! Well, the pair I’m currently using have a few more miles in them anyway, so this is all great stuff to ponder. Thanks for the “lesson” in the new shoe technology.
Readers? What do you think? If you run (or are considering running), did this in any way shape your thoughts on your next running shoe?
MLB Honors NLB; Marlins Throw Back to Miami Giants
Yesterday, MLB Celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Negro League Baseball. In an event that was supposed to have taken place on June 27th (delayed, obviously, due to the COVID-19 pandemic), all players, managers, coaches and umpires wore a Negro Leagues 100th anniversary logo patch on their uniforms. According to MLB, the logo is a derivative of the official logo created by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Here’s a close-up (for all photos you can click to enlarge):
All teams sported the patch (which was apparently glued, not sewn, on the unis) on the left breast:
On most teams this looked fine, but it was a bit overshadowed by teams who have a logo in nearly the same location, such as the Yankees:
Teams across the leagues had some form of pregame announcements or festivities, but without crowds in attendance, these undoubtedly lost some of them impact they rightfully should have had. In addition to the uniform patch, the logo was also on the lineup cards as well as the bases:
Several teams also placed cardboard cutouts of NLB players in the seats, where the “fake fans” cardboard cutouts are also located:
There were even some cutouts in some of the dugouts:
It would be nice if those remain in the stands until the season ends.
Teams also sported “Negro League Baseball” t-shirts for pre-game warmups:
And, of course, several players wore NLB-inspired cleats:
As mentioned earlier, it appears the patch wasn’t sewn:
— uɐʎɹ sı ǝɯɐu ʎɯ (@UntillTheNight) August 16, 2020
As you’ll see below, it didn’t stay on every player either. Sigh.
And some took it even further than the shoe honors:
— Ignacio (@igTXSalazar) August 16, 2020
In a somewhat odd twist to yesterday’s festivities, the Miami Marlins threw back — but not to a NLB team — to the Miami Giants. The Miami Giants were a semi-pro baseball team in the 1930s, calling Dorsey Park (which is still standing in Historic Overtown) their home field. While not a part of the Negro Leagues themselves, they frequently faced the stars of the league in barnstorming games.
No other teams took the occasion yesterday to wear NLB throwbacks.
But the Marlins did look good:
They even masked up when social distancing wasn’t possible:
Unfortunately, the team didn’t really go the extra yard with their helmets (of course, there were no helmets in the 1930s, so it’s not like they could accurately throw back there) — but they could have removed the “M” sticker logo:
— Preston Feiler (@phfeiler) August 16, 2020
And as mentioned above, the patch was definitely “glued” on…and of course, that led to it also falling off at least one player yesterday. Sigh:
@UniWatch also it looks like they went the sticker route with the Negro League Commemorative Patch as it has fallen off Shafer's jersey for the Marlins. Braves and Umps are wearing the stickers as well, even though the Braves are in their normal Sunday road set pic.twitter.com/0LIgrpwScV
— Preston Feiler (@phfeiler) August 16, 2020
It’s a shame NLB didn’t truly get its day in the sun for its 100th Anniversary this year (but at least MLB didn’t cancel it). Another casualty of this whole coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps next year MLB will give NLB more proper respect (although I wouldn’t hold my breath). But at least the season didn’t get canceled before yesterday’s games took place. And for that, we should all be thankful.
Guess The Game…
from the scoreboard
Today’s scoreboard comes from T. J. Brenan.
The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).
Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):
Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.
Gradients Come to NAIA Football
Got a note from my buddy Jimmy Corcoran, whose dad, most of you know, played professional football, most notably for the Philadelphia Bell of the WFL. Jimmy’s nephew plays at Keiser University, an NAIA school in Florida, and the team just got new helmets for the season. I’ll let Jimmy take it from here:
My nephew got issued his helmet. They aren’t bad for a small school, right now they just wear one helmet. But like a lot of Uni Watch readers I am not a fan of gradient paint jobs, very few teams pull it off, they usually give the helmet an unfinished appearance. I thought this helmet would look better with a thick blue stripe on the back to separate the colors like Navy did with the gold stripe.
Here’s a look at the lid:
I’m not a fan of gradients, but I don’t think this one is too bad. I happen to like navy and powder blue used together. And while I think all facemasks should be gray, I bet this would look pretty snappy with a navy one. Jimmy agreed. “I like the powder- navy combo too. Always like UNC and Columbia’s unis. I agree, a navy face mask would make this helmet pop a little more and give it a little rougher look. When the roster is done and they make final cuts they are supposed to add large numbers on the back.”
Thoughts (on gradients in general, and this hat in particular)?
By Jamie Rathjen
Baseball News: If you missed it, the Giants are planning to add NOBs to their home jerseys next season (from multiple readers). … MLB.com ranked the top 10 Negro League uniforms (from Mike Chamernik). … The new Triple-A Red Sox affiliate Worcester Red Sox are to reveal uniforms today (from Howard Corday). … The Cubs’ broadcaster yesterday used a Brewers ball-in-glove logo with just a plain yellow circle instead of a baseball (from Jarrod Campbell). … The independent Somerset (N.J.) Patriots have been playing against a second team of their own creation, the New Jersey Blasters, in a series of games (from John Cerone). … The next two are also from John: The Somerset Patriots also picked the winner of a jersey-design contest for charity. … A new competition, the All-American Baseball Challenge, brings together some New York and New Jersey minor league teams and some apparently new teams. You can see some of the logos and uniforms by scrolling through the existing teams’ social media: the Sussex County Miners and the New Jersey Jackals. … The Korea Baseball Organization’s NC Dinos wore alternate jerseys and light blue hats for a promotion based on Children’s Day, a holiday in South Korea on May 5 (from @taewoongii).
Football News: The Vikings added a 60th-season helmet decal for next season (from multiple readers). … Washington added NOBs to their practice jerseys. The NOB previously was “Team” instead, which was a decision by coach Ron Rivera. … However, Washington’s old logo is still at midfield of their indoor practice field. The team said they would try to remove all traces of the old identity by the start of the season (from @BriMcL17). … Lumberton (Texas) HS has an apparent Riddell makers’ mark on its jerseys. … Here is a video of splash shields being added to Georgia’s helmets (from Willard Kovacs). … The first round of Virginia players choosing their numbers for this season took place last night, with LB Zane Zandier becoming the first player to wear No. 0. I’ve noticed over a few years a pronounced soccer-like trend of players moving to lower numbers as they become more senior; it appears that everybody in this group either kept the same number or chose a lower one.
Hockey News: Stars G Anton Khudobin had to change the tape on the top of his stick because it was green instead of white (from @stuctaylor). … Hurricanes G Petr Mrazek has Family Guy‘s Peter Griffin on the side of his mask (from Dave Garabedian).
Basketball News: The WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks wore warm-up shirts supporting Los Angeles County’s public health anti-smoking initiatives. … Here is how NBA and WNBA teams are retaining some elements of home-field advantage (NYT link) in their bubble (from Tom Turner). … The Boston Globe once wrote about why the Celtics traditionally wore black sneakers (from John Fitzgerald). … The single cover for Drake’s new track “Laugh Now, Cry Later” features him and fellow rapper Lil Durk dressed like NBA draft picks (from Mike Chamernik). … Reader Matt Tumlinson made a Spurs football helmet.
Soccer News: English clubs that released new kits or shirts this weekend included Birmingham City; Burnley (from Nate Gilman); Huddersfield Town, Manchester United’s second shirt, which was worn yesterday (from our own Anthony Emerson); Norwich City; and St. Albans City, with the local band Enter Shikari as the advertiser (from @vivalablake). … Other new releases included Portugal’s Vitoria (from @mikeDfromCT), Mexican second-tier team Alebrijes de Oaxaca (from @SeanRFlynn), and German team Mainz 05’s third shirt (from Greg Phillips). … Staying in Germany, Fortuna Düsseldorf’s new second shirt features a pattern visualizing their many promotions and relegations — relegation from the Bundesliga in June was their 15th change of leagues since 1992. … Here is an overview, in picture form, of even more kits and shirts released this weekend. … New shirts also for Polish teams Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biała and Widzew Łódź (from Ed Żelaski). … Also in Poland, Lech Poznań are getting a new ad, but instead of just not having one on the shirt, they put the ad’s release date where it would go (from Tom Gronek). … The Canadian Premier League is holding a shortened season in Charlottetown, P.E.I., on a pitch that doesn’t have any stands, so the TV broadcast features computer-generated stands, covered seats in the stands with ads, and adboards (from Wade Heidt). … The NPSL’s Minneapolis City pointed out that St. Louis City’s color scheme and logo font looks really similar to theirs, for which they gave the new MLS team the sardonic nickname “Thieves” (from multiple readers). … Mexican team Monterrey changed to white from red socks at halftime on Saturday (from Eloy Jiménez). … The first MLS game after the Orlando tournament was hosted by FC Dallas last week with some fans in attendance. Officials and players from both Dallas and Nashville SC knelt, for which they were booed, and Dallas right-back Reggie Cannon, who is Black, later received death threats and racist abuse. … Since the Champions League and Europa League restarted, officials have been wearing “UEFA Match Official” patches that they didn’t wear before; they would normally wear FIFA patches. … Some teams in the same competitions have been wearing “Thank You” in English instead of a local language, like Spain’s Sevilla (from Daniel Kilgore).
Grab Bag: In the Australian Football League, Fremantle released an Indigenous guernsey. … In the southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby, Melbourne Rebels prop Cabous Eloff rather spectacularly ripped his shorts (from @NatteringN). … Japan’s men’s volleyball V.League held a “special match” based on the volleyball anime Haikyu!!, with players from the league’s teams forming two fictional V.League teams from the show, MSBY Black Jackal and Schweiden Adler (from Jeremy Brahm). … Two hundred Irish Muslims recently held a socially-distanced Eid al-Adha prayer in Dublin’s Croke Park. … Reader David Eichblatt wears one of the 2015 Uni Watch T-Shirt Club shirts every year on his birthday. Happy belated 80th, David! … Community leaders in Waterloo, Iowa, want the police department to change its logo (from Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell).
And finally… big thanks to Harrison for the running shoe technology primer! Definitely food for thought when I get my next pair of kicks. Good stuff.
I was pleasantly surprised with the positive comments on last Friday’s sunset photo, so I’m going to run another one. Unfortunately it rained all day yesterday, and it was overcast on Saturday, so there were no sunsets to photograph. However, this is what I was treated to on Friday evening…
There’s a lot of cool stuff out here I encounter on my daily runs and walks, and of course the sunsets (almost) nightly. I’ll post some other interesting area photos in the future.
Everyone have a good Monday, and I’ll see you all on the morrow…