While reading the De-Orbit Burn module book, I noticed that the origin of the modern midsole for athletic shoes originates from lunar boots used on Apollo missions (Texas, 2013). As a distance runner, I was interested to say the least, so I immediately looked up the correlation of lunar boots to athletic shoes for myself. It did not take long before I came across an article by Jim Sam entitled Technological Spinoffs: Spinoffs from the Space Program. According to this article, “Technology originally developed for the boots worn on the moon, has now been applied to athletic shoes in the mid-sole section. The technology improves shock absorption, stability, and motion control,” (n.d.). It was then that I realized that, thanks to athletic sneakers, we are all walking in the shoes of astronauts.
Before the 1980's, running shoes were cushioned with a fairly basic foam. This foam had a tendency to easily wear out over the course of about 100 miles or less because of the continuous compression it experienced through regular use. Eventually, shoe companies decided to create a shoe that would not wear out as easily as the conventional foam sole. AVIA, a subsidiary of Reebok, hired Al Gross, former space suit engineer, to solve this dilemma. Gross threw away the idea of a foam sole and decided to try to make a mechanical way to cushion athletes. His solution used the same “convolute system” as was used in Apollo space suit joints to provide a rigid, yet flexible, cushioning method. In addition, Gross utilized NASA's method for creating impact resistant helmets, called blow molding, to fabricate his design. After a few years of testing, the Compression Chamber sole was featured in a great number of AVIA's shoe designs (“Spinoff,” n.d.).
And while Al Gross was researching and developing soles for AVIA, Frank Rudy was doing the same for Nike. Using the same blow molding technology that Gross was using, Rudy's idea used a series of pressurized air chambers to cushion the foot (Plain, 2004). It was such a revolutionary design that Nike kept the research and development of the shoe top secret. After much trial and error, Rudy finally helped Nike come up with the Nike Air Tailwind, a shoe that was said to reduce energy consumption for distance runners by up to 3 percent. Rudy's designs and concepts were so innovative that they are still in use today. In fact, all Nike Air and Nike Air Max products stemmed from his one idea of using air as a cushioning system instead of foam (Kim, 2010; Ransacker, 2010).
Although I do not personally prefer Nike, AVIA, or Reebok, the Apollo technology...