The Acme Corporation today unveiled its own entry into the "sub-2:00-marathon shoe" market—a wheeled, rocket-powered model called the Super Genius.
It's a surprise move by Acme, a quiet company based in New Mexico and known mostly for boomerangs, iron bird seed, anvils, giant magnets, and dehydrated boulders.
"No one saw this coming," said Friz Freleng, Ph.D., a professor of running shoe technology at MIT. "Nike's sub-2:00 shoe was predictable, given its 'Breaking2' project, and nobody was surprised to see Adidas follow suit."
"But Acme?" he said. "Who even knew they made athletic footwear?"
Very few people, it seems—even many Acme employees were unaware of the Super Genius. Sources tell Dumb Runner that the handful of designers and technicians working on the project, code-named "Meep Meep," signed nondisclosure agreements and worked under extremely tight supervision.
As for the shoe itself, it represents a radical departure from traditional running shoes.
For one thing, there are the wheels. Most running shoes don't have them.
"You can go faster on wheels," explained Chuck Jones, an Acme engineer who helped to develop the Super Genius. "Faster than without wheels."
The other notable difference is the use of rocket propulsion—each shoe includes a small liquid rocket and storage for propellants.
"Acme has a world-renowned rocket science division," said Jones. "We took advantage of that in designing the Super Genius. Because rockets make things go very fast."
Also, the shoes are strapped onto the feet rather than cinched down with laces.
Reaction to Acme's shoe has been mixed, though most experts agree that, in theory and all other things being equal, the Super Genius should produce significantly faster race times.
"I don't see how a reasonably fit athlete could wear these and not break 2 hours," Dr. Freleng said. "Unless something went haywire mechanically—say, the rockets failed to ignite at the start line despite repeated attempts, causing the athlete to remove one shoe and look directly into the rocket's nozzle, shaking the thing until it suddenly ignited, scorching him with exhaust and causing his face to be blackened and his hair blown back in a comical way."
"But what are the odds that'll happen?"