Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nike designs running outsole for amputee athletes...

In 1997, I traveled to Toronto to cover the Donovan Bailey/Michael Johnson match race over 150 meters at the SkyDome, a race that was hyped up as a race for the ages, pitting the 1996 Olympic champs at 100 (Bailey) and 200 (Johnson).

After all the hype, Bailey ended up winning, while Johnson pulled up.  You can watch the race here.

One of the undercards of that race was a 100-meter race between paralympians Neal Fuller of Australia and Mountlake Terrace resident Tony Volpentest (left/photo by Paul Merca), a race won by Volpentest, as he overcame Fuller's start, catching him at the 70 meter mark to win in 11.69.

One of the challenges that most amputee athletes like Volpentest faced was finding footwear to fit their prosthesis, a process that generally involves buying a shoe off the rack, and either tying it over the 'foot', or cobbling the shoe, and somehow jerry-rigging the shoe to fit the blade.

If you look at the picture of Volpentest, he's wearing an off-the-rack Nike sprint shoe that he rigged to fit his "Flex Foot", which was the state of the art in prosthesis in 1997.

Fast forward to this new development that our friends at Nike have come up with, called the Nike Sole, a lightweight, durable composite sole that can easily be used with Össur’s Flex-Run prosthetic blade for amputee athletes.

The Nike Sole (above/photo courtesy Nike) features an integrated layered sole including an outsole, midsole and thermal plastic urethane called Aeroply, made of recycled Nike Air Bag units, serving as moderator between Nike Sole and the Össur Flex-Run’s carbon fiber blade. Nine nylon plastic tabs serve as fingers that wrap snugly around the Flex-Run carbon fiber blade for secure lock down and easy on-off. A stretch rubber leash with tactile grip tab for easy placement over medallion fastener provides additional security.

“This project is a special one for Nike,” said Tobie Hatfield, Nike Innovation Director. “The Nike Sole is a shining example of our passion and commitment to serve athletes and provide them the solutions they need to achieve their goals – we’re always listening to the voice of every athlete.”

Here's a video, courtesy of Nike, featuring triathlete Sarah Reinertsen and Hatfield, explaining the technology.

NOTE: Nike Media Relations contributed to this report.

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