TORONTO â€” Evan Dunfee is no longer walking on worn-out shoes.
The Canadian race walker who famously opted not to protest his fourth-place finish at last summer's Rio Olympics has signed with sponsor New Balance.
The athletic footwear and apparel company picked up Dunfee and fellow race walkers Ben Thorne, a bronze medallist at the 2015 world championships, and Inaki Gomez after Asics opted not to re-sign the athletes after Rio.
"It's been great to get something underfoot," Dunfee said. "Just to have that piece of mind going forward knowing I'm not going to have a couple thousand dollars of expenses to account for, that I hadn't planned on accounting for, is great."
In January, the 26-year-old from Richmond, B.C., tweeted a picture of his running shoes, which were worn almost through at the toes despite the fact they were barely two weeks old. Under the photo, he wrote: "When you're no longer getting shoes for free u come to realize that you'd like them to last longer than 2 weeks... what are some good shoes?"
During heavy training periods, Dunfee will go through a pair of shoes in three to four weeks â€” or between 400 and 500 kilometres of walking.
New Balance reached out to help within hours after The Canadian Press published a story about Dunfee's lack of a shoe deal.
"Shoe-wise they're providing me with an ample amount of shoes," Dunfee said.
The partnership came just in time for Sunday's Race Walking Challenge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where Dunfee finished sixth in the 20-kilometre event.
Dunfee will race a 50K at this Sunday's third stop of the Challenge in Monterrey, Mexico. Thorne, a 23-year-old from Kitimat, B.C., and Gomez, from Calgary, will race a 20K in Monterrey.
"I've never done a 50K this early in the season, the earliest I've done a 50K before this one was August," Dunfee said. "So doing one in March will be interesting to see where I'm at and how things are going. So I'm looking forward to it."
The focus this season, Dunfee said, is the Pan Am Race Walk Cup in May in Lima, Peru, and the world track and field championships in August in London.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press