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If the track shoe fits

BY MATT SCHOMMER | FEBRUARY 02, 2010 7:30 AM

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Nice shoes aren’t too hard to track down for the Iowa harriers.

The equipment room in the Recreation Building is stocked with duffle bags, lockers, and an impressive display of shoes.

Iowa track and field team members have the luxury of being able to snag a sweet pair of kicks whenever their old gear wears down. They are even lucky enough to donate or keep the used spikes when the season is over.

“We usually get around two pairs a year,” junior Stephen Bee said. “One to practice in and one to compete in.”

This year, Nike appears to be the shoe of choice for the Hawkeye athletes.

“The Nike Mawlers are probably the top sprint shoes around,” Bee said. “They’re real good for straightaways, such as the 60- or 100-meter.”

Nike has utilized physics in order to get the most out of its shoes, placing supporting plates and spikes in key places for a specific type of runners.

But Nike wasn’t always the most popular brand out there.

During the pre-Nike part of the 1960s, Adidas ruled the running landscape. Almost every college track program was sponsored by Adidas, volunteer coach John Raffensperger said.

“Before, there was basically just one shoe for everything,” he said. “They were old black shoes, and the spikes weren’t retractable like they are now.”

What a difference some time and the emergence of Nike has made.

When Nike surfaced in 1972, led by Bill Bowerman, the realm of track shoes grew exponentially.

Spikes are now retractable, giving the runner the ability to run on nearly any track surface, inside or outside.

And not only are the shoes even lighter than ever — some weighing in at a microscopic seven ounces per pair — but there is a shoe for seemingly any event.

Nike Zoom High Jumps are a favorite of high jumpers, the Zoom Superflies are popular training spikes, and Zoom SD 2s aid shot putters in their throws.

“The Nike High Jumps are what the professionals from the U.S. wear,” sophomore Jeffery Herron said. “But I guess there aren’t that many high jump shoes to choose from, anyway.”

However, not everyone is sold on Nike being the best brand out there.

A minority of tracksters choose to sport Puma, Reebok, or Adidas. Some Hawkeyes said Nike makes shoes that only look good and aren’t truly built for runners.

“Well, Nike has definitely taken over — on name recognition, if nothing else,” Raffensperger said. “But the university has done a better job of picking out the right shoes for our athletes.”

Regardless of the brand, what it really comes down to is preference. With no professional runners endorsing their own track shoe, such as Air Jordans in basketball or David Beckham’s Predators for soccer players, the Hawkeyes wear whatever suits their event or style.

“Usain Bolt wears Pumas, Tyson Gaye wears Adidas, but there isn’t really a shoe sponsored by them,” Bee said. “It comes down to whatever you’re comfortable in.”


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