Fashion File: Can Shox Deliver?

In December, Nike unveiled what they claim is a revolutionary new shoe — not to mention a ubiquitous "Boing" advertising campaign.

Nike's Shox promise to bring a new technology to runners' feet that will last longer and let them run farther.

The bouncy shoes made their debut on the basketball courts of the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Both the running and basketball varieties hit retail outlets at the end of 2000 — cross-trainers are coming in 2001.

The main feature of the sleek new sneaks are the "columns," or "shox," which are like springs supporting the heel of the shoe. The columns contain a highly resilient polyurethane material "that we've found has been welcome with 'heel strikers,'" according to Nike's manager of U.S. communications, Dave Mingey.

But the Shox appeal to more than just the "strikers" (runners who hit the ground hard on the heel). All runners could use a little extra durability, and in their press material, Nike claims the columns are "mechanically tested for 1 million cycles or roughly the equivalent of running over 2,000 miles."

So how long do other types of running shoes last? According to Bob Wischnia, deputy editor of Runner's World magazine, "It depends on a number of factors. All shoes aren't made alike — some are more durable than others, some are less... But a good pair that costs $70 to $90 should normally last 250 to 500 miles."

So if Nike's claims are true, we're talking more miles for your buck — even with the running shoes' steep $150 price tag.

Boing, Boing

No, the Shox don't make the "boing" sound of the commercials. In fact, they make a vaguely embarrassing squelching sound. But all varieties of Shox are sleek-looking and hip in an antiseptic 21st century way and are flying off store shelves.

A salesperson at Footlocker in New York City's Manhattan Mall, who gave his moniker as Dutch Deuce Villoda, said "We sold out of the running Shox in, like, two weeks." When asked why he thought they were so popular, he said, "Because they look cute."

But are the shoes worth the hype?

Yes and No

The man (or woman) on the street seems to think not.

On a trip to the gym to test the shoes out at a Thai kickboxing class, the Shox get the attention of a pert, athletic-looking twenty-something woman in the locker room, who gave her name as Amy. She bought a pair, but was far from satisfied.

"I kind of feel guilty that I bought them, because they're not worth all the money," she said.

During kickboxing the shox felt OK — a little tight around the middle — but all in all, not much different than standard running shoes.

However, the experts hold that the shoes are something special. Runner's World's Wischnia says, "I do think this is a major innovation ... I know it's more durable than conventional foam, and this is a first step in an evolutionary process for Nike."

He said the weakest part of most athletic shoes is the foam in the midsole area. But Nike "replaced the foam material with a stronger material (in the midsole and rear)," he continued.

Still, his recommendation comes with a caveat. "However, in the forefoot of the Shox is regular foam. So, the rear shox may last — but I don't know if it will last 2,000 miles — but the front part definitely won't."

Even if they feel just like a regular old running shoe, at least they look cool.

"A lot of younger runners think it looks really great," Wischnia says, conceding that the Shox have fashion slaves salivating. However, he says, "Older runners don't think it looks that great, but they're drawn to it by the way it works."

Well, whether it's for fashion or function, Shox are turning some heads.