The winning shoes from the World Marathon Majors in 2018

Sometimes its worth it for triathletes to check out what the specialists choose when it comes to equipment. A look at the shoes worn at the big marathons in 2018.

| November 15, 2018 | GEAR

At the Berlin Marathon in 2018, Eliud Kipchoge set a new marathon record, besting the old standard of 2:02:57 with his 2:01:39 finish.

At the Berlin Marathon in 2018, Eliud Kipchoge set a new marathon record, besting the old standard of 2:02:57 with his 2:01:39 finish.

Photo >SCC EVENTS/camera4

While triathletes have to be masters of three disciplines, a look at what the specialists do in each sport can be both interesting and enlightening. While the 2018 triathlon season is winding down, so too has the 2018 World Marathon Majors (WMM) Season come to an end after the New York City Marathon in November.

The WMM is an association of marathon events that has existed since 2006. The races include: the Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon. The two overall winners in the WMM ranking each receive US$500,000 in prize money at the end of the year.

We're not having a look at the winners and their times from this year - today we're having a look at the shoes worn by the podium finishers. From the statistics, two facts are striking: Firstly that in the past two years so much innovation has happened in the footwear market that one company now clearly dominates the world of fast marathon racing. Secondly, not many athletes wear personalized shoes or prototypes - most of the shoes they wear are available to consumers.It is also interesting to see that many of the models are also being worn by the world's top triathlon stars, even though the the pace and footwear requirements are sometimes quite different.

For the men, Nike rules the roost

If you look at the results of the men, you immediately notice that the winners almost always wore Nike shoes. There was one exception: Japan's Yuki Kawauchi, who won the Boston Marathon in 2:15:58 (facing extreme conditions), wore Asics shoes that are not commercially available. Kawauchi ran in a special edition of the "Asics Sortie Magic."

Of the other five winners, four used a Nike Vaporfly model. Only Kenyan Dickson Chumba wore the Nike Zoom Streak 6, a more direct Nike competitive shoe with less cushioning than the Vaporfly series, which he used to win the Tokyo Marathon (2:05:03 hours). Looking at all of the podium finishers, it turns out that 13 out of 18 athletes wore Nike shoes, three athletes wore Adidas shoes, and one each wore Brooks and Ascis. (The latter two were both custom models.) In addition to the special shoe Kawauchi used in Boston, third-placed Shadrack Biwott (2:18:35 hours) wore a prototype version of the Brooks "Hyperion," which will probably be available for consumers in the future. This sole of this shoe looks very similar to that of the  Nike Vaporfly 4%. Overall, it is striking how the trend towards minimalist footwear so popular over the last few years has shifted with the release of the new Nike Vaporfly range.

Of the 18 athletes who finished on the podium at the WMM, only four wore minimalistic shoes - two wore the "adizero Sub2," one the "adizero Adios 3" and Kawauchi's custom shoe. However, there were variations in the Vaporfly models: both Eliud Kipchoge and Mo Farah wore the "Vaporfly Elite 2" for their record-setting days (Kipchoge's 2:01:39 world record and Farah's 2:05:11 European record). That shoe is currently only available for the fastest elite runners under contract at Nike.

Only 100 pairs of the first "Vaporfly Elite" line were sold. In his spring marathon in London, Kipchoge wore the "Vaporfly Elite Flyprint," a 3-D-printed version that's incredibly thin and extremely lightweight. That version was so rare it never had a full production run - only those who won the right to buy a pair through a special promotion had the opportunity to purchase the shoe for $600. All other athletes wore the official Vaporfly models that are, or were, available to everyone (Vaporfly 4% and Vaporfly 4% Flyknit).

What does all this tell us? That, of course, Nike has done a great job marketing their shoes, equipping the world's best marathon runners in a similar model so we get statistics like these. Of course, there are studies that show that the four percent improvement in running economy that is promised by wearing the Vaporfly 4% does actually happen, not only with world-class athletes, but age group athletes as well. The fact that other shoe companies are now developing shoes using similar technology underpins this.

Photo >Rolows

Nike also the women's frontrunner

A similar picture emerged for the women: Of the six winners, three wore a variation of the Nike Vaporfly 4%. The ones who didn't included Desiree Linden, who wore the Boston Marathon prototype (2:39:54) of Brooks' "Hyperion" and Gladys Cherono won her Berlin victory (2:18:11 hours) in the Adidas Adizero Adios 3, while Mary Keitany won in New York (2:22:48) with the "Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen," an extremely minimalist shoe whose production had already been discontinued by Adidas. The "Takumi Sen"  was actually a shoe designed for 5 and 10 km racing and was worn by the Brownlee brothers at the 2012 Olympics in London. That shoe is very similar to the one Patrick Lange at the Ironman World Championship - the New Balance Hanzo S is an extremely minimalist shoe that is usually suggested for five and ten km races.

Keitany is the biggest exception among women: out of the 18 women in the statistics, 12 were running Nike shoes, including 11 Vaporfly models and one who wore the "Nike Zoom Streak 5," (London runner-up Brigid Kosgei, who went 2:20:13 hours).

Three athletes wore Adidas shoes. Brooks, New Balance and Saucony were also represented with one athlete each. It is noticeable that women are much less likely to wear custom models. Special versions, such as the Vaporfly Elite, which was used several times by men, were only seen on one woman: Shalane Flanagan in New York (2:26:22 hours). Athletes wore regular versions of the New Balance (1400 v5), Saucony (Fastwitch 8) and Adidas (Adizero Adios 3) shoes. In total, only two women wore custom shoes (Linden / Brooks and Flanagan / Nike), while the men had eight of the 18 podium finishers in custom shoes.

Photo >Rolows