How Do Running Shoes Make You Faster? If so, at what cost?

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Do Running Shoes Make You Faster? & How?

A new study, by Yawar et al, explored how running shoes can either improve or worsen biomechanics. The study identifies six key design features:

  1. Shoe mass: The weight of the shoe affects the energy required for each step.  V˙O(2) increases by 1% for each 100 g added per foot (metabolic cost increases=bad).
  2. Compressive stiffness of the sole: Thicker soles absorb ground forces, reducing the rate of impact BUT increasing the duration of impact.
  3. Sole bending stiffness: A stiffer sole shifts the push-off point forward to a more efficient position BUT increases the force on the Achilles and the metabolic cost. Particularly when slow runners use newer carbon supershoes the metabolic cost of this might outweigh the potential mechanical efficiency gain.
  4. Arch support: Support for foot arches protects against the forces involved but can reduce running economy. The cost of arch support can be a whopping 6%.
  5. Larger heel-to-toe offset A thicker-heeled shoe can reduce force generation by the ankle and cause over-striding and ankle instability.
  6. Increased sole thickness and decreased proprioception: Thicker soles diminish our ability to sense the ground, increasing the risk of imbalance and falls.

Supershoes: PEBA vs EVA after 300 miles, which deteriorates?

The author concludes

There is debate and confusion over how to evaluate the biomechanical effects of running shoe design. Here, we use an evolutionary perspective to analyze how key design features of running shoes alter the evolved biomechanics of the foot, creating a range of tradeoffs in force production and transmission that may affect performance and vulnerability to injury.

So, do running shoes, and maybe super shoes, make you faster: My Take

Clearly, some shoes are the one factor in making exceptional athletes produce the best performances ever by a human. But there may be detrimental effects other than performance for mere mortals. Indeed supershoes could make slower runners even slower or other factors, as summarised above, might see good runners only getting part of the gains that the very best runners realise.



Science: Nike Alphafly is fastest running shoe…



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2 thoughts on “How Do Running Shoes Make You Faster? If so, at what cost?

  1. This is why everyone should try every shoe at every distance, to see if that specific design helps.
    Unlimited time and money required for that though!

    Maybe 3-D gate analysis and machine learning might some day be able to match your gait, and body profile to a shoe that will defiantly enhance your running for whatever specified distance you require?

    Business idea for you T5KR?

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