Nike made headlines this week with two major marathon feats run in Swoosh shoes. On Oct. 12, Eliud Kipchoge broke the mythologized two-hour marathon barrier with a time of 1:59:40 in a specially-tailored event in Vienna, Austria on Saturday wearing what’s presumed to be an upcoming version of Nike’s NEXT% marathon shoe. On Oct. 13, Brigid Kosegi shattered the 16-year women’s marathon record by more than a minute, finishing the Chicago marathon with a time of 2:14.04, wearing what looked like the current version of the Next%. (Kosegi’s time will stand as the new women’s record; Kipchoge’s, which wasn’t run as an open marathon and included pacers and other aids, won’t be considered an official record.)
Both feats came more than 40 months after he first tested the Nike Zoom VaporFly4%, the shoe the company created in 2017 for Breaking2, Kipchoge’s initial attempt at breaking the 2-hour mark in Monza, Italy. With the oversized ZoomX midsole and the same carbon fiber plate underfoot as in the original, the $250 Next% is the latest iteration of the brand’s explicit goal to improve athletic performance in the marathon.
While the Swoosh hasn’t yet detailed its strategy, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics just nine months away, it’s a good bet here that the marathon records are the starting line for the brand to breathe new life and interest in the performance running category worldwide in 2020 and beyond. At nearly $4.49 billion, Nike’s wholesale running sales were flat in FY19 ended May 31, 2019.