At the London Olympic Games, the only thing that might be more eye-catching than the athletes' bodies is their footwear. Chances are you've seen flashes of neon yellow blazing across your screen. The likely source: Nike's uber-bright Volt collection. Athletes are sporting the electric-hued shoes everywhere from the road to the track to the medal stand and back again. You may have seen them on Trey Hardee, Ashton Eaton, and even the swimmers.
Track-and-field purists might consider the color distracting, but for the increasingly style-conscious world of sports, the pumped-up kicks are a modern example of function meeting fashion, the second coming, perhaps, of Michael Johnson's golden Nike spikes that grabbed headlines at the 1996 Atlanta Games. "Using the Volt color for all of the Nike shoes is designed to make a bold statement on sports' biggest stage," says Martin Lotti, Nike's global Olympic creative director. The statement: If you look fast, you will move fast.
To see whether these shoes are more splash than substance, I took the Flyknit Trainers—the shoes you've seen Team USA wearing on the medal stand—for a few spins on a Wednesday-night speed workout, a Saturday long run, and a few easy shake-out runs in between.
The shoe looks and feels different, for sure. It's a got a one-piece knit upper (read: made of yarn), so it's meant to mold to the shape of your foot, to wrap around it, somewhat like a sturdier knit bootie. At 7.7 ounces, it's quite light, but the sole provides significant cushioning so that a barefoot nonbeliever like me would feel supported.
The Flyknits held up as well on intervals around Central Park as they did during 16 miles of West Side Highway, making them a solid prospect for someone training for a 10K or a marathon. My strides were light and quick but cushioned—the sole was thick enough so that I didn't feel pounding on my long run, but not so heavy that I didn't feel springy on pick-ups. Was there some placebo effect to wearing the same shoes as the Olympians? Certainly. Did I mind? Not one bit.
Nike Flyknit Trainers // $150 // nike.com
—Sheila Monaghan (@sheilamonaghan), senior editor at Details