By AvatarJael Keya
Over decades Kenyans have dominated the tracks in most Olympic championships with most medals being brought back home.
World-over, Kenyans have been known as track kings and queens with the recent win being made by a Eliud Kipchoge who scooped the London Marathon win, two weeks ago, for a forth time as Britain’s Mo Farah finished fifth.
Despite Kenyan athletes’ prowess on the tracks, for the longest time they were always purchasing their race shoes from first world countries.
With the rising need to have a Kenyan-shoe brand, one Kenyan lawyer and a mother of two, Navalayo Osembo-Ombati teamed up with a Weldon Kennedy, an American campaigner based in Kenya and created the country’s first high performance running shoe.
Enda Iten, created and inspired by Kenya’s athletic prowess, was birthed from the need to have a brand that can be promoted by Kenyans when they race on the global space.
The Enda Iten is named after the small town in Kenya’s Rift Valley, which is famous for being the one of the world’s capitals of running.
Ms Ombati’s aim was through the brand, the country can reap the economic opportunities this merits.
“If you think of the global running industry, in shoes or apparel, it’s almost a $50 billion industry, and we don’t take in that at all,” Ms Ombati, who is the founder of Enda Iten, mentioned.
She added: “We’re saying that for a country that is so prominent in the running field, it’s time for Kenya to benefit as well.”
The two entrepreneurs narrated to CNN how they raised enough money from friends and family just so that they can have the prototype of the shoes produced.
The duo noted that they approached New York-based design studio Birdhaus, which has worked with Under Armour and Reebok, to create a running shoe “based on the advice, skills, and experiences of great Kenyan athletes”.
They later had to keep improving the prototype and after 10 to 13 versions of the shoes later, the final shoe was released.
The shoe, they say, features a light upper, wide toe box and a 4 millimeter “drop” — the sole to floor spacing that “can make a big difference on the way you run.”
According to Kenyan marathon runner and columnist for RunBlogRun, Justin Lagat, the shoes are very comfortable as he has been using them for his training.
Explaining to CNN, Lagat noted: “I’ve had the chance to be among the first athletes to train in the shoes for over four months now and I like them.
“They feel comfortable in training and are light and durable. They also look stylish and are the kind of shoes that you can wear to any occasion without raising eye-brows. I used to hate wearing sports shoes to church, but it is not the same with Enda,” he conclude.
As it is, the shoes are produced in the Kenyan flag colors for patriotism’s sake.
Ombati further notes that initially the shoe’s parts are manufactured in China and assembled in Nairobi.
But currently, the entire production is done in Kenya.
Speaking on the firm’s impact, she stated: “We’ve had support from the UK, the U.S., Australia, Myanmar, the Netherlands. That’s really helped us to picture what we want to achieve of taking the Kenyan running culture around the world.”
The duo now aims to produce for the athletes ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.