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Nike Pro TurboSpeed is a golf ball-inspired track uniform with dimples

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May 13, 2012

The Nike Pro TurboSpeed features golf ball-inspired dimples - Sleeve detail

The Nike Pro TurboSpeed features golf ball-inspired dimples - Sleeve detail

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The Nike Pro TurboSpeed is, as the name vividly suggests, a track uniform that is designed to give professional athletes an advantage over their rivals. Through the clever use of aerodynamic techniques more commonly found on golf balls, the company has found a way to shave milliseconds off a sprinter's time. Or at least that's the bold claim Nike is making.

In creating the Pro TurboSpeed Nike has added particular patterns to certain areas of the uniform. This includes on the shoulders, arms, and calves, all parts of the body which create resistance when we run. The dimples, which is what they resemble, were influenced by those which have been present on golf balls since the beginning of the 20th century.

To understand why Nike chose to add dimples, or "surface architectures" as the company prefers to call them, to its latest track uniform we first have to understand why the surface of a golf ball (even one made from lobster shells) isn't perfectly smooth. The hundreds of dimples present on each golf ball create a turbulent rather than laminar layer of air molecules, which hold to the surface of the golf ball more efficiently and for longer than they would a smooth ball. This reduces the wake and therefore the drag on the ball. Nike suggests the same principles can be applied to the clothing worn by athletes.

The effect of these dimples, as well as other aspects of the uniform, is to shave up to 0.023 seconds off the time taken to run 100 meters. This is based on Nike's own wind tunnel data and set against its previous track uniform. While 0.023 seconds doesn't sound like much, in the 100 meters sprint it can be the difference between coming third and fourth, or between setting a personal best and a new world record.

The Nike Pro TurboSpeed track uniform in action
The Nike Pro TurboSpeed track uniform in action

With the London 2012 Olympics set to kick off on July 27, it's rather intriguing that an innovation used in arguably the slowest mainstream sport is now being used in one of the fastest. Runners from the U.S., Russia, China, and Germany will be using the Nike Pro TurboSpeed at the Games.

Whatever advantage these track uniforms offer the athletes who don them, the result will still primarily be about ability - unlike some other sports where technology and innovation is somewhat overpowering the skill of those taking part. For better or worse.

Source: Nike via Fast Company

About the Author
Dave Parrack Dave is a technology journalist with a ravenous appetite for gadgets, gizmos, and gubbins. He's based in the U.K., and from his center of operations writes about all facets of modern and future technology. He has learned more in his five years writing for the Web than he did in 11 years at school, and with none of the boring subjects thrown in to the mix.   All articles by Dave Parrack
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11 Comments

Reminds me of the "shark skin" swimsuits that was a hot topic last summer olympics.

digi_owl
13th May, 2012 @ 08:49 pm PDT

I could see this working. Look at the test they did on the mythbusters with the track car they actually added more weight in the form of a clay coating and then put dimples in it. It ran a faster time.

Rob.
14th May, 2012 @ 12:32 am PDT

Anyone tried running in a vacuum? that would reduce air friction, but there might be a small problem with breathing....

agulesin
14th May, 2012 @ 03:50 am PDT

This could be worth while in track and road bike racing!

Jerry Peavy
14th May, 2012 @ 10:14 am PDT

I'm surprised this is not more common in cars. Maybe they are worried people don't like how it looks? Maybe a patent troll preventing it's use?

ff
14th May, 2012 @ 11:09 am PDT

The effect at running speeds is small. There should be a considerable effect if the same were applied to the surface of vehicles. That is the contention of the people who produce "fuel fins" which have proven on the autobahn to increase mpg by 5%.

Adrian Akau
14th May, 2012 @ 11:44 am PDT

I'm sorry guys but this is a shamble. The reason golf balls have dimples is to trip the air flowing over the ball into turbulent flow. This decreases the drag coefficient, and therefore lowers drag to about half of the initial value. It is impossible for this tech to be effective as air flow over the human body is too slow and therefore would not be able to trip into turbulent flow. This would however not be the case for cyclists, motorbike helmets, suits etc. Respect to Nike for making money from over payed idiots and spoiled brats.

Bernard Greyling
15th May, 2012 @ 01:18 am PDT

@Richard Greyling Given that we haven't even solved the Navier-Stokes equations, (regarding the comparatively simple case of incompressible fluids) your confidence in asserting the impossibility of the suit working seems a little strange unless you have personal experience working with full-body turbulence reducing suits.

Nathan Andrew Holmes
15th May, 2012 @ 12:13 pm PDT

sucker alert, people go a BLAZING 15mph. even swimmers shaving their legs is more for psychology than actual gains in speed. no aero needed. also my frisbee with these all over it is a peice of junk, leave it on golf balls. I've even heard an F1 aerodynamicist claim they are only useful for spherical applications like GOLF BALLS. so, ff, that's why no cars use them either also. if there was a patent troll then he'd own EVERY GOLF BALL also.

johnweythek
16th May, 2012 @ 03:57 pm PDT

From a distance it looks like a "halftone" superhero costume.

(Halftone is that newspaper printing technique that makes images from little dots.)

Grunchy
31st May, 2012 @ 12:29 pm PDT

Golf ball inspired? Looks more like Spider-man inspired to me.

Dave Andrews
26th June, 2012 @ 01:45 pm PDT
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