What is the laziest way to start an article? Use a quote from someone smarter than yourself.,
“The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.”
― Henri Poincaré, Science and Method
The first half of the quote is the more popular part, but I believe it loses a little bit of meaning without the second half.
This article is about one of the most iconic shoes in the sneaker world,the Nike Air Max 97, and its ties to the NikeFIFA World Cup Championships, 100s of Marathon wins, and the essence of Triathlon.
The Air Max 97 was designed by Christian Tresser, the person that also designed the Reebok Pyro, DMX Daytona, and Aztrek. Christian Tresser was ahead of the times, using carbon plates and seamless uppers in running (and soccer–sorry, I’m American) shoes as early as 1992.
After some time with Reebok, NIke came a-knocking and Christian made the jump. Legend has it that in only 10 short months Christian designed the Nike Air Max 97, Spiridon, Mercurial, and Tailwind. All are classics in their own way.
What makes the Air Max 97 so special?
If you ask a sneakerhead, the answer is everything. The Air Max 97 was the first shoe with a full-length airbag, full mesh uppers, and hidden laces. While the 97 was not a true one-piece upper, it did share the same lines as the Mercurial (another Christian-made shoe), which was one-piece.
That’s great, Coach Adam; you like shoes (said sarcastically by the reader). What does this have to do with the price of fish?
Well, these innovations first seen in the Air Max 97 led to our current super shoes. The Vaporfly 4%, Vaporfly Next% (1,2.3), and Alphafly (1,2) all share a seamless mesh one-piece upper, a mix of the 97 and Mercurial. All the current shoes also tip-toe the line between legal and illegal with the amount of foam cushioning in the sole, a direct descendent of the full airbag of the 97. The Fly shoe family has more wins and has topped the shoe counts at every elite-level distance race since they appeared in 2017.
The soccer side of the legacy is arguably even more impressive than the running side. The Mercurial, like its sibling the Air Max 97, went on to be the preferred shoe of World Cup 98 and worn by one of the most iconic soccer players in history, Ronaldo.
However, I appreciate the Air Max 97 so much because it has a purely coincidental connection to Triathlon. While the 97 was somewhat inspired by the Japanese bullet train, nicknamed the “Silver Bullet,” the actual inspiration is very tri. The wavy mesh uppers (said to be reminiscent of the lines of the train) are actually taken for the ripples of a drop of water on a still surface. The silver-on-silver color scheme (also claimed to be similar to the train) came from the appearance of aluminum components on a titanium mountain bike. So we have both swim and bike inspiring a running shoe, a harmonious order of the parts of triathlon in a beautiful shoe.
Coach Adam Sczech is an IRONMAN University Certified Coach, USAT Level I Certified Coach, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and VFS Master Bike Fitter based out of the Western Slope of Colorado. Adam has years of experience coaching beginners, juniors, elites, and clubs as well as a year focusing specifically on special needs athletes. Adam's expertise with bike fitting is extensive with over 15 years and 8,000 fits for athletes that include two world record holders, a national champion, several IRONMAN Pro/Age Groups winners, and an ITU winner. He has completed several full and half Ironman races, as well as numerous Olympic and Sprint races.