Running shoes and graphene were made for each other. One is always in search of the latest gimmick and the other has produced some of the most stunning in recent memory. The University of Manchester, long a leading force in research surrounding the one-atom-thick material, has teamed up with British sportswear brand inov-8 to bring graphene to footwear.
Unlike most of the research we’ve seen around science’s recent favorite miracle material, these things are headed to the market in our lifetimes — a seeming miracle in and of itself. In fact, they’re due out next year, priced at a steep, but not completely unreasonable, £140 and £150 (around $200 on the high end).
There are no miracles present in this particular implementation, but the graphene should make the kicks more flexible and a hell of a lot stronger than traditional running shoes. Graphene, after all, is the thinnest material around and about 200x stronger than steel. The researchers heated it and added tiny particles to the shoes’ soles.
“When added to the rubber used in inov-8’s G-Series shoes, graphene imparts all its properties, including its strength,” university reader Dr. Aravind Vijayaraghavan said in a statement tied to the shoes. “Our unique formulation makes these outsoles 50-percent stronger, 50-percent more stretchy and 50-percent more resistant to wear than the corresponding industry standard rubber without graphene.”
Manchester researchers have long discussed graphene’s potential role in wearables. In addition to all of the aforementioned super powers, it’s also transparent and more conductive than copper — all great potential traits for the next generation of electronics. The school recently demonstrated the ability to print the material for sensors, as well, meaning that these sneakers are likely just the start of something much bigger.