Bailey's Shoes Go High-Tech  
Spikes to be ready for Skydome sprint
from The Globe and Mail
April 8, 1997
By James Christie, Sports Reporter
 

TORONTO - Donovan Bailey is playing catchup to Michael Johnson in at least one way. He'll soon be shod in running shoes similar to the $30,000 (U.S.) glittering gold pair that carried Johnson into Olympic history at Atlanta last summer.

Bailey's camp has commissioned high-tech spikes of the sort that Johnson wears in preparation for the sprint kings' match race at the Skydome on June 1.

"Twenty gold medals were won using our product, with Johnson being the highlight. The only sad part was that Donovan Bailey didn't use them at the Olympics because he required a special style we didn't have at the time," said David Grant, a Calgary native and president of Omni-Lite Industries Inc., which developed the lightweight spikes from a ceramic composite material.

Now we're in a situation where the playing field can be level." The material, a composite of aluminum and alumina was originally engineered for tank armor and aerospace applications, Grant said. He said it has the stiffness of steel with one-third the weight, reducing the weight of shoes substantially.

The material is also used in the drive shaft of the Corvette sports car and in brakes of some other cars said Grant, whose manufacturing base is in Cerritos, California.

"We made those gold shoes," Grant said, referring to the flashy Nike runners that Johnson wore in winning the men's 200 and 400 meter races. "Only a dozen pairs were made. We have a pair of the gold shoes locked in a safe here in the board room. They're the only pair that's not in the Smithsonian Institute, the White House, Nike's museum or Michael Johnson's bag."

He said the weight of Johnson's dropped from six ounces to three with the new spikes. Actually, one of Johnson's shoes is heavier than the other because he has different-sized feet. The left foot - his inside foot running the curve of the track - is size 10 1/2; his right foot is size 11. Grant also described the shoes as having an asymmetrical wrap that helps fight the centrifugal force as Johnson runs the curve, while allowing the spikes to have some bite on the running surface.

Bailey who set the men's 100-metre world record of 9.84 seconds in Atlanta, runs in adidas shoes. Grant said his spikes probably will be shipped to the headquarters in Germany this week.

"The weight is the same, but the style of Donovan's spike and it's interaction with the track is different." Grant said. "Donovan's spike penetrates the track a bit further that Michael's, which depresses the track."

Grant said his company was started in Calgary in 1993 with the help of a National Research Grant to help identify new composite materials for new applications. Manufacturing moved to the United States because that was the best location for proximity to the products and testing facilities.

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