Nike has unveiled its newest running tech innovation—tiny, colorful, reflective particles that are sprinkled on a runner's body just before a race.
The tiny bits, which Nike calls FleetFlakes, are "engineered to increase a runner's speed," a Nike spokesman said, "by creating tiny fields of... umm... I mean, they work by absorbing ultraviolet light and... uh, airflow is inducted in a condensatory fashion, resulting in higher velocities."
The spokesman sighed.
"OK, so basically it's glitter," he said. "We sprinkle some glitter on their foreheads."
Talk of the innovation dominated conversations at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon, where reporters and fans got the first look at FleetFlakes over the weekend.
"It certainly got folks talking," said sports writer Oscar Madison. "Everyone was like, Whoa! What is that glittery stuff? and Did you see that glittery stuff? and I am definitely gonna write an article about that glittery stuff."
"Apparently they tested it in a wind tunnel and everything," he said. "Cool!"
Nike's history of using science and "outside the box" innovation to improve the performance of its athletes is well known. Two notable examples are the "cryosauna" famously used by Dathan Ritzenhein before the 2010 New York City Marathon and, more recently, the black "AeroSwift" tape seen on Nike runners like Galen Rupp this year in Eugene.
Although the company has no plans to make FleetFlakes commercially available, it appears happy with its success thus far. In field tests, its spokesman said, use of FleetFlakes increased Nike's brand exposure by 8 to 10%.