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Future Shoe: New Ampla Fly Shoe Breaks The Mold

The innovative Ampla Fly shoe is designed to help runners efficiently use the force exerted in running.

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The Ampla Fly shoe is designed to help runners efficiently use the force exerted in running.

We’re pretty sure you’ve never seen anything quite like this. But even though the Ampla Fly running shoe looks decidedly futuristic, it’s aimed at improving on something the running world has worked on for 50 years—optimizing running economy through efficient use of applied force and maximal energy return. And, the creators say, it’s all based on the kinematic science of running.

The shoe’s carbon-fiber interior structure has been designed with a unique spring-like flange intended to load under pressure and launch forward as the foot lifts off the ground. Simply put: When you push off with your toes to begin a new stride, you’ll feel an energetic sensation, almost like a small boost of energy under your forefoot.

The Ampla brand is the brainchild of David Bond and Tom Hartge, who each have more than 25 years of running shoe industry experience at Nike, Adidas, K-Swiss, Patagonia and Quiksilver. They collaborated with Dr. Marcus Elliott, a Harvard-trained physician who specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention of pro athletes in team sports and endurance sports at P3 Applied Sports Science in Santa Barbara, Calif.

PHOTOS: Get A Glimpse Of The Ampla Fly

Bond says the shoe design is intended to guide the foot to a better ground contact position, gathers force at mid-stance and maximizes force application at the toe-off phase of the running gait. Ultimately, he says, it can help improve running mechanics, cadence and posture.

“This shoe is a running tool that empowers the most efficient use of force,” Bond says of the new shoe. “As a runner, force is your friend. Good, well-trained athletes use force. Poorly trained athletes waste force.”

The Ampla Fly is created on a low-profile platform (4mm heel-toe offset) and weighs about 9.7 oz. (men’s size 9.0). The shoe, which has been wear-tested by runners and select retailers during the past year, will be unveiled at The Running Event trade show Dec. 2–5 in Austin, Texas. Shoes will debut to the public in early to mid-February at select running stores across the U.S. with a $180 retail price.

Although Bond admits it’s not a shoe for every runner, it can be used as a game-improvement tool to help runners upgrade their form and increase efficiency. Other shoe designs based on the science of athletic movement are in the works, both for running and other sports.

“This is the first half step in what is going to be a marathon, metaphorically speaking,” Bond says. “We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of where you can take product. And it’s almost wrong to call it a product. The reason we started this company is because we want to create real benefits—solutions—in running and other sports.”

Elliott says he got involved because Ampla is a brand based on scientific innovation first, not marketing fluff or sales directives. He says the design of the Ampla Fly allows the foot be more active and use more of the natural propulsion created by the Achilles tendon and arches of the foot. The initial Ampla shoe was designed based on hundreds of data points collected from high speed cameras and force plates at the P3 lab.  

Elliott points out that the shoe is only part of the equation. To achieve optimal form and efficiency, runners should continually train their bodies with repetitive strength, form and speed drills.

Shoes are important—it’s the only piece of equipment that absolutely changes how the body moves—but ultimately it’s more about the foot and how the foot moves,” he says. “This shoe puts the foot, and the entire body, in a better position for running.”

Elliott and Bond are aware that science hasn’t driven shoe development. Up until recently, big shoe brands haven’t done detailed biomechanical studies of athletes to develop shoes, Elliott says. But, he says, that’s how Ampla will be different.

“Shoe development has been driven by designers and marketing, so there are a lot of things that go into the development of shoes that people don’t have a rational answer for,” Elliott says. “There has got to be a rationale for everything you do to manipulate the body. It’s got to go towards making the body move better. You have to have a clear line of thought from that manipulation of the body to some kind of better movement outcome and that just didn’t exist. We want to use science to create footwear that will create a benefit for runners.”

Elliott has been intrigued by the science of athletic movement since the late 1980s when his football career was cut short by injuries and he dabbled in triathlon. After finishing medical school, he worked for the New England Patriots, where he helped the team reduce muscular injuries by creating a testing protocol to determine each player’s weaknesses and imbalances. From there he worked as Major League Baseball’s first director of sports science. Since opening his lab in Santa Barbara, he’s tested the physical strength, agility and movement patterns of thousands of athletes and consulted to numerous amateur and pro sports organizations, including the NBA. Before he went to medical school, he helped Ironman triathlete Mark Allen implement plyometric drills into his training regimen.

Bond and Elliott met a few years ago when Bond was working for K-Swiss. Their original collaboration centered on studying the movement pattern of tennis players and using that data to create the K-Swiss BigShot, a shoe that earned rave reviews for its quickness and durability.

Bond says he believes precisely understanding athletic movement and being able to predict injuries through high-tech data collection is the next frontier in athletic footwear design.

“I’ve never been confronted with that information and I’ve been in the shoe industry for 25 years,” Bond says. “To me, it is such a refreshing, different approach to starting a brand. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”