If your formative years were spent in a '90s playground, you'll probably recall some distinct crazes: Tamagotchis, Pogs, slap bracelets and, most damagingly for parental wallets, the trainer tech war led by Nike Air and Reebok Pumps.
In some ways, it was the original wearable tech war, with air-cushioning systems and unpronounceable gels taking trainers into new geeky (and sometimes gimmicky) territory.
Fashion trainers have since kept this tech alive with their nostalgic nods to the '90s, but now Reebok's bringing it back into the performance world with a new trainer: the ZPump Fusion. We went to its HQ in Boston to try it out.
One foot in the '90s
Originally invented for basketball, Reebok's Pump system differed from other techs by being about fit rather than cushioning: the trainers’ air chamber could be inflated by pressing a button on the tongue to lock it around your ankle and create a custom fit. Though the ZPump Fusion's are based on the same idea, they're also radically different from their hi-top forebears.
For a start, they're 'neutral' running trainers, designed for people who like to mix up gym work with middle distance runs like 5km and 10km races. Their structureless upper also makes them feel like a inflatable sock plus a sole, with Reebok telling us that the laces aren't really necessary and might be discarded in later versions.
Like it or pump it
So what are they like? The Pump system was more subtle than we expected, with 15-20 presses needed to get them snug around our (admittedly low) instep. While instant Marty McFly-style power laces might be a recipe for discomfort, pumping this many times before every session might get a little irksome – though the number of pumps apparently differs for everyone.
Once fitted, our dash around Reebok's assault course found them to be a fine trainer for quick changes of direction and sprints. The soles (apparently inspired by sports car tires) were grippy and the upper was forgiving without allowing too much movement.
With Reebok (and many amateur athletes) moving away from straight running to general fitness like Crossfit and team endurance events, it's clear the ZPump Fusions are for all-rounders rather than marathon addicts. So will the ZPump Fusions spark a revolution in lace-less trainers and become a mainstay for serious runners and triathletes? Probably not.
But will they be a tempting option for '90s kids who like to tear around Spartan Runs and Urban Mudders? Almost certainly.