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Sprinting toward innovation at ASU

Olympic medalist Jamol James has recently graduated magna cum laude and designed a new, customizable track shoe

Jamol James
August 04, 2016

In his time at Arizona State University, Olympic medalist Jamol James has graduated magna cum laude and designed an innovative track shoe with a spike pin that can be customized for any athlete.

It’s all part of a multifaceted approach that flourished at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, where James learned “to have an open mind about learning, since the ideas to address many real-world problems don't come from the tools themselves but your attitude, which affects your perception, which affects your capacity for knowledge retention, which further affects the outcome reality.”

James, a sprinter from Trinidad and Tobago, came to the U.S. as a student-athlete four years ago. His freshman year, he made his home nation's 2012 Olympic team and was a reserve on the 4x100 relay team that took bronze in London. He later transferred from the University of Tennessee to ASU as a junior and raced to multiple first-place finishes as a Sun Devil. In May, at the age of 23, he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in what is now called the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, James concentrated on design studies and digital culture, both of which are within the Herberger Institute.

Fittingly, James’ capstone project focused on track and field. He looked at shoes for track and came up with a way of designing a spike pin that can be customized “for everybody,” depending on their needs and the surface on which they’re running. He went to an orthopedic specialist, who pointed him in the direction of a company that manufactures pressure-sensor socks “that can sense where the different pressures in your feet are most dominant.” That way, the user can determine where the spike should go.

The shoe is now in the process of being manufactured, James said.

“The company I am working with, called Gear Up, is working on making it available to the public this coming January," he said. "So be on the lookout!”

In addition to being a designer, inventor and track star, James is also a music engineer and producer in his spare time.

James hopes to earn a professional track-and-field contract “sometime in the future. It's difficult when you are not able to get a contract as a means to support your training and continued development, so therefore it is on me to work and compete.”

He’s no stranger to putting his focus into multiple areas at once.

“Just know that even if I say I’m going to go do architecture after this, I don’t mean I’m going to just do architecture,” he said. “I’m going to be probably designing chairs, you know? Because I don’t want to just be seen as just a one-direction person.”

And because if there’s a better way to approach or design something, James is interested.

His website is