A Look Back at Our Favourite Marathon Sneakers
The modern marathon has challenged both elite athletes and amateur runners for over a century now, captivating a truly global audience throughout the years. Putting the noble athletic endeavour to the side for one moment, here at Sneaker Freaker we get just as excited about what’s below the ankles of each participant. Not only has the marathon inspired a whole bunch of new running technologies for those needing a little extra speed, it has also thrown up its fair share of commemorative releases that look just as good on the street as they do on the track.
We’ve taken a look at some of our favourite marathon-inspired kicks that have released in more recent times. From the Nike ZoomX VaporflyNEXT% and ASICS GEL-Kayano 25 to the Saucony DXN Trainer and New Balance 1500, the list offers a little something for everyone, whether you're looking to break that elusive two-hour barrier, or just soak up the action from the sidewalk.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%
The Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% represents the latest in Nike’s ongoing technological advancements for running, and takes the honours for being on Eliud Kipchoge’s feet when he famously broke the seemingly insurmountable two-hour marathon barrier in 2019. In fact, the model was unreleased at that stage, and the pair on Kipchoge’s feet that day was a prototype of what we now know as the Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%. Kipchoge worked closely with Nike’s design team over a number of years to refine the finished product, with his input so important that he has said, ‘I think this shoe will be part of my legacy’. Featuring two streamlined Zoom Air pods in the forefoot to deliver extra energy return, the design also adds more ZoomX foam than the Vaporfly NEXT%, which increases the level of impact protection and responsive cushioning. Elsewhere, the upper is constructed with AtomKnit, which provides a contoured fit, while also boasting minimal water absorption and enhanced breathability.
Nike ZoomX VaporflyNEXT%
An evolution of the game-changing Zoom Vaporfly 4% that dominated marathons across the globe, when the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% arrived in 2019 it was heralded as Nike’s fastest ever shoe. This bold claim was backed up with a whole range of tech advancements. Firstly, the Vaporweave construction was lighter and more breathable than Flyknit, and also absorbs less water from sweat and rain. While the slightly offset lace placement alleviates pressure along the sensitive part of the foot, and a thin foam pod inside the heel keeps the Achilles cushioned for added comfort. Down below, the Nike ZoomX foam in the midsole was redistributed to decrease the offset from 11mm to 8mm, providing more stability and energy-return with every stride. And it also retained the full-length curved carbon-fibre plate from the Zoom Vaporfly 4% that is so good it almost got banned. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a seasoned professional runner, the Nike ZoomX VaporflyNEXT% offers you cutting-edge technology to shave time off your long distance PB.
Nike Zoom Fly SP 'Chicago'
Since debuting back in 2017 as a nod to the Breaking2 initiative's prototype phase, the Zoom Fly SP has been the subject of a variety of marathon-inspired makeovers. Our personal favourite is 2018's tribute to the Chicago Marathon. Unlike the 2017 version, 2018's drop ditched the maroon look of its predecessor in favour of a more Windy City–friendly look, pairing a clean white upper with subtle reflectivity and bold red 'CHI' branding near the heel. The marathon's official logo even graced the shoe's insoles.
adidas adiZero Boston 7
The Three Stripes have been the official footwear sponsor of the Boston Marathon for years. That means that adidas get to churn out officially-sanctioned kicks that not only come in the Boston Athletic Association's signature blue and yellow, but that also sport the BAA's unicorn mascot. 2018's adiZero Boston 7 is arguably the best of the bunch, and saw its breathable upper and plush BOOST cushioning coupled with a variety of Boston Marathon–inspired details throughout, including a bunch of city landmarks on the removable insoles.
New Balance 990v3 'Boston'
Whenever the Boston Marathon nears, Beantown-based New Balance always come correct with special drops for the storied race. In 2013, NB looked to set itself apart with a bold purple colour scheme, dressing the likes of the 990v3 – which debuted the previous year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the iconic 990 – in rich suede and matching mesh to go with neon peach and stark white accents. New Balance even incorporated Paul Revere's silhouette on the heel to drive home the Boston ties and pay tribute to Patriots' Day, the annual holiday – which commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War – on which the race is held.
Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 'Shanghai Rebels'
The Zoom VaporFly Elite is pretty much impossible to get your hands on, but thankfully Nike brought the Breaking2 shoe's signature ZoomX tooling to the tried and true Pegasus lineup to create the most race-ready Peg yet: the Zoom Pegasus Turbo. For 2018's Shanghai Marathon, the Swoosh crafted the best version of the kicks to date, giving the sleek runner an asymmetric red, white and blue look complete with Chinese script and mismatched colour-blocking that was absolute perfection.
ASICS GEL-Kayano 25 'Tokyo'
2019's Tokyo Marathon took place back in March and, to celebrate, ASICS cooked up a special rendition of the latest GEL-Kayano entry for the race. The limited-edition version of the FlyteFoam-cushioned GEL-Kayano 25 came clad in black and red with everything from metallic gold accents and Tokyo text on the insoles and lace tips, to a traditional seigaiha wave motif on the engineered mesh upper, and the Japanese characters for the country's capital city on the external heel counter.
Saucony Kinvara 7 'Boston'
Slick Boston Marathon–inspired kicks aren't just limited to adidas and New Balance. Case in point: this special Kinvara 7. Though the kicks may be swathed in green, they aren't inspired by the city's historic NBA franchise. Instead of taking cues from the Celtics, these are actually inspired by Boston's infamous public transit system, the 'T', and its green line, which runs in close proximity to the actual marathon course.
adidas adiZero Adios 3 'Boston' Pack
2016's Boston Marathon saw adidas debut not just one, but two different versions of the BOOST-cushioned adiZero Adios 3. While one sported the Boston Athletic Association's familiar unicorn logo and blue/yellow colour scheme, the other was a special tribute to the 25th anniversary of adi's storied Equipment line. The resulting kicks not only rocked a stylised take on the unicorn logo, but swapped out the BAA's blue and yellow in favour of a predominately green callback to the EQT drops of years past.
Saucony DXN Trainer 'Tokyo'
Back in 2016, Saucony celebrated the Tokyo Marathon with one of its most unique drops to date, teaming up with Japanese artist and former pro skateboarder Toshikazu Nozaka for a two-part collaboration. While the Kinvara 7 handled the performance side of things, the standout was undoubtedly the pack's DXN Trainer. Not only did the kicks come decked out in cherry blossoms and a Great Wave–inspired motif, they also paid homage to DXN namesake Rod Dixon, the New Zealand–born distance runner who famously won the 1983 New York City Marathon.
New Balance 1500 'London'
The 1500's days as a performance runner may be long behind it, but the silhouette is still one of the all-time greatest NBs. And, since they're mostly made in New Balance's Flimby factory these days, a London Marathon edition of the kicks seems just right. That's exactly what we got in 2018 when NB hit the England-made kicks with striking neon accents and the marathon's official Virgin-sponsored branding on the insoles.
This article was originally published on April 5, 2019.