U.S. track star Allyson Felix wasn’t wearing shoes made by Nike Inc. or any other big brand when she crossed the finish line at the Olympics in Tokyo on Friday. In a rare move, she wore spikes from a small independent label: her own.
Felix ran in a pair of bespoke shoes from Saysh, the sneaker business she started earlier this year. Each weighs less than four ounces, with a knit mesh upper section and an injection-molded plate made from lightweight Pebax foam. They were developed by footwear designers Natalie Candrian and Michael Friton and assembled in Portland, Oregon.
The result is a landmark moment for Felix, 35, and her new label, which started the pre-sale of its first line of $150 sneakers — which are different from the ones she wore on the track — in June after raising $3 million in seed funding. Felix’s bronze in the 400-meter event Friday was her 10th medal, tying sprinter Carl Lewis as the most decorated U.S. track athlete in history. She could break that record when she competes in one more relay race at the Tokyo games.
Shoe performance has been in the spotlight throughout the Games, as debates rage over the use of so-called “super shoes” pioneered by Nike that have energy-returning foam and stiff plates in their soles. Footwear technology has become so important on the track and in endurance events that some companies, such as Reebok International Ltd. and Brooks Running Co., have allowed their athletes to wear shoes made by rivals in competition.