Scientist’s Notebook: Sneaker Scientists

Sneaker scientists and sports trainers spend so much time analyzing how athletes move, you would think they’d have to be sports nuts themselves. For the most part, that’s true.”On staff here at Nike, we have basketball players, lots of runners, soccer players, football players, golfers,” says Nike biomechanist Gordon Valiant. “We’re all active and interested in sports.”In fact, an interest in sports motivated many of Nike’s experts to go into the field in the first place. “It’s a very fun place to work,” Valiant says. “It’s actually pretty cool to go through university and study something you’re interested in and then apply it to something you’re interested in.”

Being around so many athletes and constantly working to create better gear also seems to give Nike’s staff the urge to go, go, go. Business director Mark Riley and communications manager Beth Hegde have each run many marathons. This year, Mark decided at the last minute to run his 12th Boston marathon, while Beth chose to take a break from the race.

“Sometimes, we’ll decide the day before a marathon to run it,” Mark told me, “usually just for fun.”

Seth Kinley, a trainer at Penn State, has a different perspective. After treating runners’ injuries for 10 years, he has learned the importance of rest for both health and performance.

“These kids live, breathe, and will probably die running,” he says. “I try to get through to them that they will be better off if they take some time off.”

Kinley takes his own advice seriously. He has run a few 5-kilometer races, but that’s about it. “I’m not much of a runner,” he says.—E. Sohn

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