the5krunner

Running Shoes & New Foams

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Feb 2018: Nike will release another super-fast running shoe foam

I’m getting slightly fed up with walking past my local sports shoe store and seeing some of the window-sized ads for running shoes. It seems that every year there are new running shoe technologies that will guarantee to make me 10% faster. With the continued shoe innovation of each of the last few years, my calculations show that my 5k time should now be down to somewhere around 10 and a half minutes. It isn’t.

In fact I’ve got slower.

I would blame the shoes, but getting older and cycling a bit more probably have something to do with declining 5k times. To add insult to slowness-related injury, I kept on getting injured.

So I played around with some new shoe brands, the most successful of which (for me) were adidas adizero (ty Barrie) and New Balance’s Zante v3 (ty random shop guy). Those shoes also tended to look vaguely nice when photographed alongside STRYD or some other pod…like this:

I just had an intrinsic worry about the soles of these shoes. Being blunt, these and other shoes just seemed to have a bit of re-branded polystyrene as the sole material which, after a couple of hundred miles, became fairly compacted and so losing the original cushioning properties.

Yet the marketing says otherwise: “super boost”; “ultra boost”, “mega boost”, “super mega boost”, “new, improved ultra mega-boost”…you get the message? I did. Repeatedly.

Putting my cynicism aside they DO seem to reduce injury as a mid-foot striker.

The History of Running Shoe Foam in 15 and a half seconds

New Balance are now on the v4 edition of the Zante running shoe. But the ‘Fresh Foam’ is found on the soles of several of its shoes and itself dates back to 2013/14.  New Balance use the EVA compound which as we all know is Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate; or you will probably best know it as (C2H4)n(C4H6O2)m.  That’s the same ‘n’ as in your ‘n+1’ bikes although I have no idea what the ‘m’ is despite doing A level Chemistry.

Unlike polystyrene ( 🙂 ), EVA is ‘springy’ and returns better to its original shape. EVA is made even springier and less dense as part of the injection moulding process used to make the sole.


Nike now have their 2017 ‘React’ technology which was first released last year in their basketball shoes. Clearly Nike make more money from that sport than from running.

Moving on to 2018; February will see the same technology find its way on to running shoes with the Epic React Flyknit. The React foam increases energy return by 13 percent over Nike’s Lunarlon foam (Source: Ernest Kim, Nike). So, rather than the usual 10% annual increase, Nike are giving us a stunning 13%.

Of course NONE of us believe that any of this will make us 13% faster. But I suspect MANY of us HOPE that, maybe…just maybe, it could make us 1% faster.


Then, just as we in the West are currently blissfully unaware of Huamei and Huawei inroads into running tech, so we have ANTA sports in China moving forwards with their super running foam (December 2017). The A-LIVEFOAM. I’ve not yet seen any claims of how much faster they will make runners.

 

If you forefoot- or midfoot-strike then I’m not convinced that any of these technologies will make you faster. If you heel strike then you may well have a longer ‘ground contact time’ than other runners. So MAYBE these technologies might give you 10 seconds off your 5k time. But it would also have to be said that other sole technologies like Mizuno’s ‘WAVE’ or Nike’s springs and airbags would also probably work to a similar degree.

 

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