What do running shoes, hiking boots, tennis rackets, basketballs, kayaks and bike helmets all have in common? Besides the fact that, with the warmer months upon us, many of us will be digging them out again, all of that outdoor gear, and a lot more, would not be possible without petrochemicals.
If your daily run starts with a pair of Nike Vaporflys, for instance, what makes you fly in those shoes, is high-tech foam sandwiched around a carbon fiber plate. Runner’s World put the ZoomX Vaporfly Next on its list of best running shoes for 2020: “That Pebax-based foam is extremely lightweight, highly cushioned and has the most energy return of all the shoes we’ve ever measured in our lab.”
And that foam is a complex block copolymer of modified polyamide and polyether, which are made from petrochemicals like butadiene or benzene for the polyamide part, modified with adipic acid that starts with benzene, and a glycol for the polyether part that starts with ethylene or propylene.
And it isn’t all about the foam either, the ultra-lightweight uppers, which are so light that they can add more foam for the heal, are also water resistant, so if you’re running in the rain, you can stay dry and comfortable. These tops aren’t simple nylon or polyester, though; no, they’re as high-tech as the soles. It’s a novel weave using thermoplastic elastomers, one of which is polyurethane that begins with benzene or toluene.
Same story as you go down the rest of Runner’s World’s list. The Skechers Razor 3, the Reebok Floatride, the Hoka One One Rincon, there’s the magic of that petrochemical-based foam making each of them light, strong and fast.