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Adidas tests upper limit of running market with $500 shoe

FILE PHOTO: Berlin Marathon

By Helen Reid

LONDON (Reuters) - Adidas' newest running shoes, worn by Ethiopia's Tigist Assefa on Sunday to set a new women's marathon world record in Berlin, went on sale on Tuesday with an eye-watering price tag that will test the enthusiasm of amateur runners.

Adidas, its bigger rival Nike and other sports brands, have been locked in a "supershoe" war for years, since the first running shoes containing a thick, shock-absorbing foam and carbon fibre plate helping athletes run more efficiently, were released.

At $500 a pair, the Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 cost $225 more than Nike's equivalent Alphafly 2, raising the question of how many amateur runners will swallow the extra cost.

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"The price tag is just insane," said Harry Swinhoe, founder of Grove Lane Runners, an amateur running club in southeast London. "People will flock to it, but I wonder whether the average runner will really feel the benefit of the ultra-supershoe, versus the supershoe, or the normal shoe."

Weighing just 138 grams (5 ounces), the shoes are very light, but not durable. They're designed to be worn for a single marathon-distance race (42 kilometres, or 26 miles) and pre-race warmup, making the cost per mile at around $19 if, as Adidas says, runners must buy a new pair for each marathon.

"This is a shoe optimized for speed, versus durability," Adidas said. The retailer released just 521 pairs of the shoes on Tuesday, with a second drop planned for November.

Adidas is marketing them as world record breakers, with CEO Bjorn Gulden on Tuesday posting on his Instagram a photo of him and Assefa holding the shoe, with the caption: "Tigist Assefa... we are so proud of you!"

Assefa broke the world record by more than 2 minutes to finish in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 53 seconds.

(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Sharon Singleton)