Nike has expanded its lineup of running shoes to include a model that it says is the first ever designed specifically for running downhill.
The Gradient, which will go on sale this fall with a price tag of $120, was unveiled at a media event in New York City last week where journalists were invited to try the shoes out on a giant treadmill set to a steep negative incline as strobe lights pulsed and a DJ played techno and house music.
"The Gradient will revolutionize the way people run on non-flat, non-uphill surfaces," Nike Associate Senior Executive VP for Running Footwear Innovation Richard Roma told the crowd as waiters circulated with trays of chicken sate, grilled vegetable bruschetta, and Prosecco. "With its special NANO-Foam Impact Zone™, Hex-a-Flex Kinetic Heel Sheath™, and Ballistic+™ reinforced eyelets, this shoe will 'let you down' easy—and fast. It's All Downhill From Here™!"
"Enjoy the open bar," he added, "and please don't forget your goody bags on the way out."
According to press materials provided by Nike, the Gradient is "the result of years of research into bipedal descension and the unique needs involved in human/slope navigation."
Running downhill, says the company, is biomechanically different from running on level surfaces, and running shoes should reflect that.
"You need the right tool for the job," said Roma, the Nike Associate Senior Executive VP. "Are your old, general purpose running shoes the right tool for running down a hill? I think the answer is obviously no."
The shoe marks Nike's entry into what promises to be a crowded category—New Balance, Asics, and Saucony are all rumored to be working on downhill shoes of their own.
Rumors that Nike is developing an uphill running shoe called the Ascent could not be confirmed.
"Like everyone else, I've been wearing normal running shoes for going downhill," said Shelley Levene, 26, editor in chief of GearDude.com, who attended the event. "I always thought they felt a little funny. Now I know why—because they weren't the right tool for the job, like the Gradient is."
"We all got a free pair, too, on our way out" he added. "How sweet is that?"
"I Instagrammed them."