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Toe freedom for long-distance runners

Geometry supports the heel bone to maximise shock absorption and ensure a smooth rolling transition to the foot-flat phase.

17th March 2022

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Singapore


Polyurethane experts at Huntsman have collaborated with running shoe specialist Joe Nimble and the Footwear Innovation Lab GmbH on a new high-performance running shoe.

Joe Nimble’s Ultreya has just been launched in a limited edition drop and provides extra comfort to marathon and long-distance runners, while helping to minimise the risk of pain and injury.

Designed by Joe Nimble founder Sebastian Bär alongside biomechanics expert Lee Saxby, Ultreya shoes have a unique design that helps protect the feet of serious runners, who can typically cover around 40 miles per week.

While conventional running shoes restrict the toes and prevent their natural anchoring and stabilising function, Ultreya employs toefreedom technology into the shoe-last design, to increase stability of the foot in motion. With a wider, anatomically-correct toe box that provides a natural stabilising function during the ground contact phase of running, muscles are protected from overuse.


Adding extra comfort and performance-enhancing potential, Ultreya running shoes feature a high energy return polyurethane midsole. Based on a special dual density Daltoped polyurethane system from Huntsman this technology delivers a running shoe with physiologically-balanced cushioning and zero heel elevation. The Daltoped system has also enabled Joe Nimble to radically simplify the manufacture of the shoes by eliminating key production steps.

“It is very exciting to be part of a project where the science of running and the biometrics of the feet are translated so closely into the design and construction of a shoe and its sole,” said Johan Van Dyck, global application development manager at Huntsman. “The unique, dynamic performance our Daltoped polyurethane system delivers to Ultreya shoes will have a huge impact on runners worldwide and is further evidence of the incomparable opportunities that polyurethanes can enable in footwear.”

 “Mother Nature provided humans with a well-padded and well-rounded heel bone for a reason – to maximise shock absorption and ensure a smooth rolling transition to the foot-flat phase of the gait,” added Lee Saxby. “The geometry of Ultreya shoes supports this and the polyurethane midsole provides extra cushioning to propel the wearer into the propulsive phase of running. It’s a powerful combination that enables Joe Nimble to deliver on its mission of creating running shoes that can help facilitate pain-free running for life.”

“The idea for our Ultreya shoes arose while watching runners compete in the Badwater Ultra Marathon which claims to be the world’s toughest footrace,” said Sebastian Bär. “I was the crew captain for top ten runners twice at the race and noticed how many elite athletes cut open the front of their running shoes to give their toes more freedom. This led me to introduce our toefreedom technology into a pair of trainers for the first time.

“Using Huntsman’s polyurethane system and the latest automated manufacturing techniques provided by Footwear Innovation Lab, we’ve created a shoe locally in Europe that uses less energy, less water, less solvents and less labour and has a smaller transportation footprint. This collaboration and product launch proves that with the right approach, the correct materials and methods, and the best team, it is possible to create shoes that can avoid the running related pain and injuries associated with repetitive impact and shock absorption.”

The first drop of Ultreya shoes was manufactured in Portugal, with Joe Nimble planning to produce wider runs of the trainers in Pirmasens, Germany, from Autumn 2022.

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