From the Fastest Marathon Ever to Virgil Abloh & Beyond, Here’s How Nike’s Zoom Series Has Evolved
Be it with waffle soles, air pouches, or knitted uppers, Nike is an expert at making athletes — and in Nike’s books “if you have a body, you are an athlete” — move faster. Its latest groundbreaking innovation came as a result of the Breaking2 initiative, an ambitious project to break the two-hour marathon barrier, and in just over a year the technology has evolved and pervaded culture at a spectacular rate. We are, of course, talking about ZoomX and the Zoom series.
ZoomX is currently Nike’s lightest foam midsole delivering 85% energy return, however, not every shoe under the Zoom umbrella features this technology — right now it’s used in three silhouettes: the Zoom Vaporfly Elite, Zoom Vaporfly 4%, and the Zoom Pegasus Turbo. Instead, other sneakers within the family share similar design elements such as the aerodynamic heel, full-length carbon fiber plate, or stacked forefoot.
Collaborations with OFF-WHITE’s Virgil Abloh plus its influence on the much-hyped street-ready React Element 87 also mean the Zoom series is informing the way we dress as much as it’s impacting the way we run. With so many defining moments already in its short history, we’ve put together a comprehensive timeline documenting the evolution of Nike’s Zoom series.
After announcing Breaking2 in December 2016, Nike revealed the shoe that would help Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese, and Lelisa Desisa in their attempt. With the Zoom Vaporfly Elite, Nike made its intentions clear in regard to radically transforming the future of athletics and helping athletes reach previously unachievable heights. It also symbolized a shift from “less is more” to “more is more”, increasing the amount of cushioning and energy return with the ZoomX midsole, carbon fiber plate, and 21mm forefoot stack height.
The next racer to be gifted the ZoomX midsole and full-length carbon plate was the Zoom Vaporfly 4%, officially revealed at the Boston Marathon where Nike athletes Geoffrey Kirui, Galen Rupp, and Suguru Osako took first, second and third in the men’s elite field, while Edna Kiplagat earned first and Jordan Hasay third in the women’s race all wearing versions of the shoe. Development of the Vaporfly 4% system started in June 2013, and prototypes were given to select athletes before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Despite coming just 25 seconds short of breaking the two-hour barrier, Eliud Kipchoge made athletic history by slashing the official world record time by more than two and a half minutes. The legacy of Nike’s Zoom technology was secured in the process but, more importantly, Breaking2 had resulted in a huge human triumph summed up beautifully by Kipchoge following the race: “the goal actually was to break the two-hour barrier. I didn’t manage to do that, but the world now is just 25 seconds away.”
To celebrate the Breaking2 achievements, the Swoosh revealed the NikeLab Zoom Fly SP reflecting the early prototype phase of the Breaking2 footwear. Various features and symbols on the design indicated how the shoe developed including text on the inner left side of the tongue referring to the prototype design’s specifications and text on the inner right side of the tongue with space for the wearer to fill in their trial number, location, and time of their own fastest run. The sockliner featured original designer sketches and running-inspired graphics including a Swoosh pinwheel icon, speed track icon, finish checker icon, and digital clock graphic appeared on the silhouette.
Nike added to the Zoom family two new silhouettes, the Zoom Fly and Air Zoom Pegasus 34. Instead of ZoomX, the Flywire-reinforced Zoom Fly featured a propulsive carbon-infused nylon plate inside the lightweight and resilient Lunarlon foam midsole while the Air Zoom Pegasus 34 used Cushlon foam over Zoom Air units. According to Nike, the former was “fast enough for race day, yet durable enough for training” and the latter “a secure, light, and quick everyday trainer”.
Nike paid homage to Chi-Town and later New York City, Shanghai, Tokyo, Boston, and London with all-new Zoom Fly SP colorways. Highsnobiety’s Editorial Director Jian DeLeon included the “Chicago” iteration on his 10 favourite sneakers of 2017 list explaining, “it’s a shoe that inspires you to move faster just by looking at it, and when it’s on foot, you actually feel more aerodynamic. As much as a placebo effect that might be, I can’t deny this shoe made me want to start running again.”