When Nike (NKE) unveiled new footwear for athletes in all 28 sports at the Olympic Games, one of its offerings prompted skepticism: an equestrian boot. One rider opined on a Web site that it looks like "the stripper boot of the horse world." U.S. Olympic rider Gina Miles wonders if wearing a swoosh might lead to lower scores in a sport that prides itself on centuries-old traditions. And Nike archrival Adidas, which is also creating new shoes for the Games, said no to riding boots. "We didn't feel we could come in with some meaningful innovation," says James Carnes, Adidas' creative director.
Nike insists its offering, dubbed the Ippeas (Greek for "rider"), allows for better performance than hand-cobbled leather boots. It used its Air Zoom cushioning—a staple in its sneakers—in the sole to make the boot more comfortable. The century-old spur system was replaced with a titanium screw-in model that was easier to install and adjust. Instead of a vertical zipper on the back of the boot, Nike designed one that wraps around the calf. There's also grippy rubber on the part of the boot that touches the saddle to improve handling, as well as red piping and a shiny heel for flourish.