Merrell is looking for two new athletes to sign for 2024 but it isn’t accepting applications, nor is it reaching out to established pro runners. Instead, the running shoe brand is challenging people to set a brand-new fastest-known time (FKT) record. And the athletes who can do it will get the sponsorship.
Merrell’s “Get FKT Challenge” launched in tandem with the Merrell Test Lab (MTL) Skyfire 2 trail running shoe. The brand claims that this shoe “is on pace to become the trail running shoe with the most FKTs.”
Athletes competing in the Get FKT Challenge will have a pair of the MTL Skyfire 2 on their feet during the FKT attempt.
The athlete sponsorship agreements would include base compensation, Merrell product credit, participation in Merrell’s Affiliate Program, social content, exclusivity rights, the ability to work with product development on new prototype testing, reimbursement of travel expenses, and race entry fee coverage.
“We’re on a mission to make the MTL Skyfire 2 the running shoe with the most FKTs set on earth,” Ben St, Merrell senior brand marketing specialist, told GearJunkie. “We hope this challenge inspires trail runners to flex how fast they can get FKT.”
‘Get FKT Challenge’
To race in the Get FKT Challenge, you must submit an application to Merrell on its athlete search webpage by August 18. The only requirements are that you are 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen.
From the pool of applicants, Merrell will select six athletes — three males and three females. Those sweepstakes winners will then travel to Steamboat Springs, Colo. At an undisclosed location near town, the brand mapped out a 3.2-mile course with 2,201 feet of elevation gain. Of the six competitors, the man and the woman who set the FKTs for the novel course will win the endorsements.
“The athlete search helps us further connect with the consumers who wear and trust our shoes on race day, and gives them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with a brand at this scale,” Stark said.
According to Merrell, earning a spot on the brand’s global trail team entails (but is not limited to): “base compensation, Merrell product credit, participation in Merrell’s Affiliate Program, social content, exclusivity rights, working with product development on new prototype testing and feedback, and reimbursement of travel expenses and race entry fee coverage.”
The Get FKT Challenge will take place on September 27.
The MTL Skyfire 2 Shoe
MTL is essentially the laboratory for Merrell’s mad scientists. The brand describes it as its “in-house product incubator.” It’s where Merrell comes up with its most creative and potentially disruptive technologies. It has several shoes in this line of products, but the MTL Skyfire 2 is the latest.
The shoe launched in April 2023, and already there have been a lot of FKTs set with this shoe. It’s the lightest plated trail running shoe on the market, at 6.88 ounces. It has a 6mm drop, with 5mm lugs. It’s also got a Vibram MegaGrip outsole, a dual-density FloatPro foam midsole, and an EVA foam footbed. The upper is breathable mesh and TPU.
“The Merrell Test Lab (MTL) is athlete-validated and lab-verified. We know that elite trail runners are training and racing in our MTL collection every day, so why not put our most technical and category-disruptive shoes to the test with the very people who wear them?” Stark said. “The MTL Skyfire 2s were built to blaze up mountain trails, and we want trail runners to help us prove that by setting their own records.”
Sign Up, Get Sponsored
Hundreds, even thousands may apply and only six will be chosen to compete. But if you don’t submit your own application, you’ll never know if you could have been one of them.
The signup form on the Merrell website is short and easy. It asks for your name, email, state of residence, IG handle, a short list of race results or previous FKTs, and a few things you love about trail running. Then you check a few boxes, punch “Submit,” and you’re done.
Enter before 11:59 p.m. EDT on August 18 for your chance to win. Merrell will provide a pair of the MTL Skyfire 2 trail running shoes as well as compensated travel and lodging for all of the six of the chosen competitors.