Sprint Shoes

Paragon has worked with NIKE and adidas to design revolutionary sports product, including Michael Johnson’s 1996 NIKE gold shoes, Donovan Bailey’s ultra-light adidas racing shoes, and adidas’ Sydney 2000 line of track and field shoes.  It also provided running surface engineering research and marketing for Mondo, official supplier of track surfaces to the IAAF and Summer Olympics. 

NIKE’s Michael Johnson Gold Shoe

Prior to Paragon’s work with NIKE, adidas dominated sprint shoe technology for Olympic sport.  NIKE’s regular line-up of commercial sprint shoes were considered by most top athletes to be a distant second tier class of product.

Then Paragon was asked by Brian Stewart, NIKE’s director of Advanced Product Engineering, to help design a revolutionary sprint shoe for future 200m Olympic champion and world record holder Michael Johnson.  Through analysis of high-speed video, Paragon provided detailed biomechanical presentation of Johnson’s sprinting technique as it related to other top athletes, particularly as applied to his efficient stride and unique cornering technique. 

Based on that analysis and subsequent presentation to NIKE’s design & engineering teams, Paragon then worked with NIKE’s project designer to provide the basic bio-mechanical design parameters that would produce the ultra-light, slightly asymmetric shoes Johnson would use to set his famous 1996 Olympic and world records.  Paragon’s design memo to NIKE successfully predicted the margin of Johnson’s 200m world record run the following year based on the weight reductions and other specifications advised.  Those calculations and resulting predictions were based on Paragon’s own internal sprint testing with different shoe weights that were conducted with electronic timing.

At the USA Olympic Track and Field Trials, Johnson used his new NIKE gold sprint shoes to run a blazing 19.66 second 200m WR, breaking one of the oldest records in Track and Field, Pietro Miena’s 19.72 altitude assisted run.  Because of NIKE’s marketing plans, Johnson does not wear these shoes publically again until the Olympics in July.

At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta Johnson once again uses his Gold Shoes to destroy the field and set one of the most dominant records ever achieved in track and field, a blistering 19.32s 200m.  (It will finally be broken by the great Usain Bolt in Beijing in 2008.)

Paragon also provided NIKE with technical and bio-mechanical analysis of its commercial sprint shoe technology and the problems with it.  Three years later, NIKE completed the expensive retooling of its commercial sprint shoe production line and incorporates the changes Paragon recommended.

NIKE used Johnson’s record performances and the Gold Shoes to become a major marketing force in the running, Olympic sport, and track & field markets, and NIKE began to gain market share traditionally owned by adidas.

Paragon’s internal MSR research that led to NIKE’s development of Johnson’s ultra-light shoes is also the basis for the development of Paragon’s future training equipment which will allow Paragon athletes to achieve unprecedented athletic performance.

adidas and the “World’s Fastest Man” Race Shoe

In 1993, after meeting Bock when trying out for the Canadian Bobsled team, unheralded future 100m Olympic Champion and World Record holder Donovan Bailey begins training daily in Paragon speed training apparel

Bailey, running for adidas, then wins the 100m at the 1995 World Track and Field Championships after wearing his Paragon training clothes every day in his last two years of training.

The following year at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, after his standard warm-up in Paragon speed training apparel,Bailey dramatically comes from behind towin the 100m Gold in a world record 9.84 seconds. 

A week later, Canada’s Bailey, Bruny Surin, Glenroy Gilbert, and Robert Esmie shock the USA and world, beating the Americans in the 4 x 100m track & field relay on their home soil.

This sets up the future “World’s Fastest Man” Race in Toronto’s Skydome between Bailey and Michael Johnson.

After the Olympics, in the fall of 1996 Bailey convinces Paragon to approach adidas about producing Paragon’s revolutionary clothing.

This leads to Paragon working with adidas to develop new shoes for Bailey for the upcoming “World’s Fastest Man” race.  In addition to modifications to the spike plate on Bailey’s new shoes, Paragon specifies the use of parachute material to produce adidas’ lightest sprint shoe ever - size 10 and 120 grams.

The “World’s Fastest Man” race, held on June 1, 1997 at Skydome, becomes a highly charged grudge match and widely publicized marketing event pitting Bailey & adidas against Johnson & NIKE.  With the whole world watching, the winner of the race will pocket $1 million, the first purse of its kind for a Track & Field event. 

Both competitors are wearing sprint shoes designed to Paragon specifications.  Bailey is also wearing a new speed suit and matching adidas Paragon-designed apparel in warm-up for the race. 

The new shoes quickly become Bailey’s favorite and the race is no contest, as Bailey beats Johnson out of the blocks and around the corner. Johnson is trailing Bailey when Johnson pulls up hurt.  

Paragon then signed a two-year contract with adidasto help overhaul and redevelop its entire commercial line of sprint shoes, as well as those developed specifically for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

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