Wednesday March 18th, 2015

Caged air. That’s how Reebok has reintroduced its Pump technology, making air the star of its latest running shoe, the ZPump Fusion.

With just three individual components to the shoe, 25 years after Reebok pumped air into a basketball shoe, the Massachusetts-based company has revitalized its air-filling technology to create customizable fits in a new low-top running shoe.

Each shoe comes equipped with an air-filled cage that wraps air around the shape of the entire foot, designed to adapt to the contour of the individual.

“Many running shoes are developed around a rigid, factory-developed shape that can never be a true representation of your unique foot,” says Paul Litchfield, original inventor of The Pump and now the head of Reebok Advanced Concepts. “ZPump Fusion is completely structure-less when not inflated and then molds to the individual shape of your foot once you put it on and inflate.”

Litchfield says you may need three pumps. Or you may need eight. And that’s the beauty of the Pump technology.

The other two components of the ZPump include the Fusion Sleeve, a four-way stretch upper that holds the shoe together, and the ZRated outsole, complete with edges and grooves that Reebok says were inspired by high-performance tires.

Courtesy of Reebok

When the Pump actuator on the heel of the shoe gets pushed, air channels through the valve and into the cage, filling around the upper and heel. The technology builds up a cushion of air to surround the entire foot, supporting it by filling empty space around the foot.

A release valve allows for deflation.

The Pump entered the basketball scene in 1989 pushing air into just the lower and upper portion of the tongue for ankle support. It later expanded to enter Reebok’s world of football, tennis, soccer, running, training, walking and aerobics. It all started with Reebok engineers taking a rubber bulb from a blood pressure monitor, an air release valve from a bike and an IV bag.

From 1989 to 2015. Air, and the Reebok Pump, continue to evolve.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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