After a stellar season, the Swiss triathlete Caroline Steffen is the top contender for the Ironman Hawaii World Championships on October 13. Steffen has dominated the field, winning the ITU Long Distance World Championships, as well as the Asia-Pacific and the European Ironman Championships. These wins are the result of striking improvements in her running, which Steffen largely attributes to her new high-tech shoes by Swiss start-up, On.
A strong swimmer and cyclist, Steffen has always had problems with her run. In 2011 her problems became traumatic. At the Ironman World Championships, she encountered a dramatic defeat and near-collapse due to agonizing leg pain. She lost the lead in the final 10k and was forced to walk to the end, finishing 5th. Three months earlier, she had already limped to her win at Ironman Frankfurt with only seconds to spare.
This year, the tides have turned and the Swiss athlete has made an incredible leap forward in her running. So what’s the key to her success? Inevitably training hard and experience all count, but Caroline also attributes the improvement in the run to switching to a unique new running shoe from On. Combining a cushioned landing with an efficient push-off, Ons were designed by former world champion triathlete Olivier Bernhard to help athletes like himself prevent injuries without compromising on speed and weight. Steffen is convinced by the patented technology: “The On’s have helped me in a big way to overcome my pain and injury issues“, she says.
At the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships, Steffen improved her personal marathon record by 5 minutes and came only 50 seconds short of the Ironman World Record. “It was the perfect race”, says Caroline, “I could finally show the world that I can run! Thanks to the Ons, my legs actually felt better at the finish than at the beginning of the run. I didn’t realise I was running so fast.“
Brett Sutton, who has coached most of the triathletes to win a medal in Ironman or ITU racing, including Chrissie Wellington and Olympic Gold medallist, Nicola Spirig, is Caroline Steffen’s coach. He says he has seen a great improvement in her running since changing her shoe to On: “I could see they were working very well for her: She runs more efficiently and faster, can go longer and recovers quicker. This has resulted in faster run times in her recent races. On is bringing true innovation to the sport, they are the future.”
“This year’s victories give me a lot of confidence and motivation for the Ironman World Championships”, says Steffen. “I look forward to going back there and trying to set last year’s record straight.” Is she afraid of the excruciating run in Hawaii? Not anymore as she has the On Cloudracers flying her to the finish line.
Caroline Steffen was the first of a series of top athletes who have started competing in On, including Ironman Champions Dave Dellow (Australia), Bella and Stephan Bayliss (UK), Daniel Halksworth (UK), Matt Russel (USA), Marathon Champion Paul Maticha Michieka (Kenya), Olympic Triathlete David Hauss (France), Greg Billington (USA) or X-Terra Champions Jacqui Slack (UK) and Ben Allen (Australia) have all substantially improved their personal bests since doing so, and have also earned victories in major competitive events.