The Adidas Adios Pro Evo is a Deeply Misunderstood Super Shoe

Adidas swears that it's good for more than one marathon

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Michael Doyle
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Investigative journalist and editor based in Toronto

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The Pro Evo 1 is the most appalling running shoe in recent memory. It’s disturbingly light at 4.9 oz. for a men’s size 9, so much so that when you pick it up for the first time, you immediately feel thrusted into an uncanny valley experience. It doesn’t seem possible that a shoe of this size and stack height could be this light. It feels like a trick of physics.

The Pro Evo 1 also made waves because Adidas used an old marketing saw to hype up desire for the shoe— they produced just 500 pairs, triggering an illusion of scarcity that was previously part of Nike’s bag of tricks in motivating runners to crash retail sites.

Adidas amplified the scrutiny and hype further by asking an obscene amount for the race-only shoe: $500 USD. That’s a little more than $100 per ounce of plastic.

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But the final piece de resistance in this masterclass in drumming up runner outrage was the suggestion that the Pro Evo 1 was only good for a single marathon, and then it was toast. The one-and-done shoe had supposedly arrived. And one week after its announcement, an unheralded Ethiopian named Tigst Assefa absolutely pulverized the women’s world record at the Berlin Marathon, running 2:11:53. At the finish line, she broke into tears of joy, pulled a shoe off, and kissed it in thanks. It was an almost ecclesiastical moment. The Evo 1 was a revelation. An epiphany.

Nike’s Alphafly seemed rugged, functional and a touch banal by comparison. The Pro Evo was now the shoe everyone loved to hate, and hated to love. Outwardly, it was roundly condemned as decadent and an example of the super shoe era taken too far. Many criticized it as rampant and callous consumerism within the running industry, and a shoe that shouldn’t exist, as its single marathon lifespan would mean that, if Adidas were to meet demand, tens of thousands (or more) shoes would be entering landfills after each marathon season. Industry insiders even speculated that Gen Z runners would reject the Evo wholesale, as market research suggests climate change now heavily guides the buying habits of younger runners. And yet, the Evo 1 quickly sold out.

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But at the Boston Marathon expo, Adidas was making a painstaking effort to rewrite the narrative surrounding the Evo 1. The brand had a few of the 500 pairs up for grabs (men’s size 7 and 8 only), and the message was clear: the shoe is deeply misunderstood.

Yes, it’s extremely light, which means it’s made of less durable materials. The upper feels paper thin, and is actually nearly completely translucent. The outsole is surreal (not in the “dream-like and unsettling” misuse of the word, but in the literal sense that it looking like a friggin’ Dali rendering of a tread after it’s melted due to a scorching fast marathon). The Adidas three stripes look like they were hastily added in with a paint brush similar to a prototype race car getting a last-minute decal slapped on the side before the start of LeMans.

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But the product developer on the floor made it clear: the Pro Evo lasts longer than one marathon. One Adidas staffer (who declined to be named) said that the shoe could last up to around 200-250 miles in “the right conditions.” That’s nearly 8-10 times the longevity that’s now widely reported, which is both a communications disaster for the German shoe giant, and an unintended marketing coup.

The confusion seems to stem from the very first statement the company released about the shoe when it acknowledged its existence: a PR rep said that the shoe was “designed specifically for race day, with the purpose to race at your fastest – one race, all in.”

That, coupled with just how ridiculously under-constructed the shoe appears led many to report that if a runner were to dare run marathon number two in the Pro Evo 1, the thing could maybe disintegrate beneath your feet. And Adidas didn’t help matters when pressed on its designers’ supposed lack of concern for longevity, emphasizing that “the exact longevity of the shoe delivering this high performance will depend on the athlete wearing them and the conditions they are worn in.”

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What was made clear to us on the expo floor in Boston was that the Pro Evo 1 (and the as-yet unreleased followup second-gen version) will last the average runner more than a single marathon under “regular conditions.”

So if you’ve felt guilty about lusting over a pair of the world’s most bleeding-edge super shoe (dare we called it a “hyper shoe“?), take comfort in knowing that it’s significantly less costly when you consider cost per wear. And that it will only end up in a landfill in perhaps a year’s time, not after your next race.

Photo of author
Investigative journalist and editor based in Toronto

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