Are these new to the market techy training shoes up to speed? There’s only one way to find out…
Is it just me, or are workouts getting more demanding? Once upon a time I toddled along to Bums and Tums or Step and went through the motions; I knew the score. These days, gyms, personal trainers and training apps are throwing all sorts of stuff at us, and while I’m achieving results in double quick time, not to mention never getting bored, staying on my toes can be a challenge. Whether you’re kickboxing, throwing everything you’ve got at a HIIT class or pumping weights with choreography (quite the skill), your kit needs to not only keep up, but enhance your performance. Basically, trainers and the like need to move with the times, and most importantly, move with you. It’s no good signing up for a 30 minute lunchtime blast if you’re spending a good portion of it doing up your laces/ hoiking your leggings back to where they should be. With high performance sports gear in mind, Nike has recently launched the tailored-for-training Air Zoom Strong shoes, and we decided to put them through their paces, to see if they can match the power of the modern woman and her increasingly rigorous workouts. Here’s the verdict…
Sleek, light and space age-y, with colourways ranging from chic and minimalist to bright and nigh on high-vis, there’s a shoe here to suit your character/ workplace/ gym vibe. The matte elastic band at the front and back of the shoe adds interest (more on that later), and the neoprene sock inner looks cosy and inviting. The see-through, coloured sole is funky and seems as though it would keep you nice and stable without weighing you down, and the design in general is super slick and non-bulky. All in all, the Air Zoom Strong had me at hello.
On putting these on, the neoprene ‘sock’ was evocative of a wetsuit, but one that’s flexible, light and slides on relatively easily, rather than the usual twenty minute wetsuit tussle. To help with the ‘getting on’ process, Nike has thoughtfully added tabs at the front and back of the foot.
Once you’re in, you’ll see why the sock concept is such a good idea. Smooth and supportive, it keeps feet comfortable and ‘locked down’ with zero chafing or rubbing, no matter how quick you’re moving. For someone who normally takes at least a fortnight to ‘break in’ trainers, this was the dream.
As for the elastic band, I loved the fact that it blended with the shoe design and colourway (I went for seaweed/black/green glow/summit white) and once strapped in it keeps your laces underwraps, so there’s no tripping over your own feet mid-workout. Another plus is that the design supports the top of your foot, which comes in handy during side-to-side moves, especially if weak, weedy ankles run in your family as they do mine (thanks Dad).
I decided to first take the trainers for a spin at Frame’s new LIFT class , a dynamic weightlifting session that combines lifting with lunges, squats, curtseys and other heart-rate elevating moves. From speedy footwork to weighted squats, sweaty strength training was the order of the day, and being a newbie I needed all the help I could get. During the warmup I was impressed that the flat sole was springy but not ‘bouncy’ (weights + bounce never goes well for me), and grippy without getting stuck mid HIIT interval. You need all of the dynamism and momentum that you can get when taking on max intensity exercise for a short time, and the Air Zoom Strong certainly ticked the flexibility box.
When the going gets tough, and hot, the mesh upper keeps feet reasonably cool, and the fact that the trainers are so lightweight means that feet feel light and liberated. There’s not a hint of clunkiness going on here, which is just as well given the weights I was lifting. Speaking of lifting barbells and such, the Air Zoom heel has just the right amount of ‘give’, responding subtly as you move to keep you grounded and balanced. If you’re looking to kick butt, lift heavy or skip through a HIIT session, these could be ‘the ones’, just note that they’re not designed for running. You wouldn’t want to dirty these babies anyway.
Nike Air Zoom Strong trainers, £100, buy online
The feature was created in partnership with Nike