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You Have To Watch This Running Video from 1982

I just got an email from a reader (thanks Kevin!) alerting me to a YouTube video that features a caveman being chased across a desert:

Caveman Running

A old-fashioned looking, forefoot striking runner on a treadmill:

Forefoot Striker on Treadmill

And a vertical ground reaction force plot on a computer screen:

vGRF Plot Nike Commercial

Is this a preview for the Born to Run movie? Nope. It’s a Nike commercial from 1982. Very cool!

via Welcome to Optimism

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. SuperSonicEd says:

    WOW that ground reaction plot has the exact pattern found in heel strikers as the 2010 Lieberman study that shows the heel strikers generates a HIGH impact transient. It also showed that forefoot striking has NO impact transient. They also explain that this rapid increase shows that heel striking causes 1.5 to 3 times more impact than forefoot striking. Great finding that supports modern research and the benefits of forefoot striking!

  2. Brad Patterson says:

    Very cool video, thanks for sharing! This may have been the very first major shoe seller marketing promotion talking about “foot strike”! I especially like the classic footage of Alberto Salazar crossing the finish line of some race. (Initially I thought it was from his victory at the 1982 Boston Marathon, but after comparing this clip to youtube footage of the 82 Boston, it must have been a different race)

    • That’s Salazar winning the 1981 NYC Marathon in a world record 2:08:13. True, it was later determined that the course was short and the 2:08:13 has been pretty much scrubbed from history. I, too, found the video to be very cool. 1982 was definitely a peak year for Nike — The American Eagle racing flat and the Terra TC. I had a pair of Eagles — best racing flat ever. I find it ironic that Nike is making a big deal out of the 30th Anniversary of the Air Max today, which in hindsight was a dead end in running shoe design.

      • Kevin Schell says:

        These commercials were originally aired during the 1982 NYC marathon so it makes sense that they incorporated footage from the 1981 NYC marathon.

        Totally (respectfully :-)) disagree with your comment about the impact (pun intended) of the Air Max 1. Although Karhu was the first company to advertise “air cushion” in their shoes back in the mid 70’s, Tinker Hatfield’s designs from the late 80’s (e.g., Air Max 1, Air Tech Challenge II, Air Jordan III, Air Trainer III)that showcased the airbag and utilized new upper materials were revolutionary. His designs forced every manufacturer to research and develop new materials to improve performance(for better or worse). It’s probably an understatement to say that Tinker’s designs continue to influence the work of most current shoe designers both in the fashion shoe and athletic shoe industries.

        That’s the reason for all of the fanfare surrounding the Air Max 1. They were the start of the Tinker Hatfield/Nike partnership that rocketed Nike to the top of both the athletics and fashion worlds.

        • I would definitely not dispute your assertion that Tinker Hatfield and the Air Max (27th Anniversary today, not 30th…) were influential in the history of running and fashion. I think, however, that it is telling that the Air Max is now a fashion icon and it’s contributions to running shoe design — ridiculous stack heights, too many overlays, heavy (despite the “air” marketing) — have been swept aside. I do think that Hatfield’s designs continue to influence in that designers are reacting to the problems that have arisen from his designs. I’m actually a fan of Nike running shoes, but I would argue that there most “runnable” shoes — the Lunar Racer, the Lunarspider R4, the Zoom Streak, even the Free 3.0 — all owe a lot more to early shoes such as the Waffle Racer, the Elite, and the Eagle — light, minimally cushioned, and flexible. After having gone on about this, I have to admit that I don’t know who designed these late-1970s and early-1980s running shoes at Nike? Was it Hatfield?

          • Kevin Schell says:

            I agree. The Air Max 1 is a fashion shoe. At the time it seems that Nike was taking the, “more is better” approach to thinking about cushioning…wait…I feel like I’ve heard something about a trend toward maximum cushioning in the running shoe world lately… :-)

            It’d be interesting to know what the heel-toe drop is in the AM1.

            Tinker also designed the Nike Air Sock which came out around the same time as the AM1 and looks very similar to the more recently produced Nike shoes you mentioned were more “runnable” (I like that term). He was apparently about 20 years ahead of his time with that design.

            Tinker, if I recall correctly, was mentored by Bill Bowerman who I believe designed Nike’s earlier shoes…in his garage…with his waffle iron.

  3. 1982 was still basically the 70s (just listen to that goofy background music), so it looks like the shoes were not too cushioned yet and didn’t have too large a drop. I’m surprised to hear them talk about foot strike, though. I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.

  4. Really neat video, thanks for sharing it. Running shoes have certainly evolved over the years, look and feel different and give you the air of sophistication, but I wonder if they’ve really got that much better? After all, the bottom line is less injuries, isn’t it? (don’t think that speed is that much influenced, but if anyone else has a view on that I’m open to be persuaded.)

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