Eight out of ten people wear trainers for the sake of appearance rather than sport, says the latest research from the sportswear industry. So why has Reebok spent four years and many millions of dollars developing the Pump 2, a technologically superior performance trainer that looks just plain and boring?
From the start we had our doubts about Pump 2s. The press release refers to former NASA engineers working on the technology inside the shoes. Bearing in mind all the hoo-hah with the shuttles over the past two missions and NASA seems like the wrong place to go.
The idea behind the Pump is simple, according to Reebok. Instead of laces to hold a shoe on your foot, an air bladder in the shoe creates a custom fit. As you walk, your step acts as a pump, inflating the shoe's air bladder and moulding it to the contours of your feet.
Without a mechanism to release air, the bladders would inflate until they burst. So engineers worked on a valve to release air from the shoe, keeping the pressure constant. It needed to be small enough to fit into the
shoe without altering its fit, but rugged enough to withstand wear and tear. They also needed to pinpoint an ideal pressure level, which was neither too loose, nor too tight.
In our tests, it was the valve that proved to be the Pump's Achilles heel. It did not work effectively to release air. The shoes became tighter and tighter until they were so tight we had to bend down and release air manually.
This was awkward and had to be done repeatedly in order to keep them comfy. Reebok claims that it tested the trainers before their release and that 95% of people found Pump 2s comfortable including Dame Kelly Holmes who says" Pump 2s feel really good because after only a few seconds of using them they fit my feet perfectly, and are very comfortable."
Of course what she doesn't say is whether or not after those first few seconds she suffers the same problems we do, and whether she ever has any intention of ever wearing them again once her professional career comes to an end.
So should you ditch your elastic laces? Probably not. The trainers may promise a perfect fit, and one that will offer additional support on that run, but we found only if you have shrinking feet.