Super-shoes: A performance enhancing gamechanger
A revolution labelled the “super-shoe” has emerged over the last number of years in the running game. This development of footwear has aided athletes in smashing long held road and endurance running records all over the world. The new shoe technology was introduced to road running in 2016 and track running in 2019, and since then, virtually all endurance running world records have been smashed.
Since the arrival of super-shoes, opinions have been divided in the racing world, with some arguing that the shoes are a step too far in the performance enhancing department.
Several footwear features are behind this performance boost. They include the shoe’s weight, its material composition, the thickness of its heel, and what’s called its “longitudinal bending stiffness”, which in simple terms is how flexible the shoe is from heel to toe.
World Athletics, the governing body responsible for endurance running, issued updated guidance on footwear in August 2020. They permitted a heel thickness of up to 40mm in road running shoes and 25mm in distance running spikes. Many have called for further restrictions. Nike are one of the leading footwear suppliers offering the super shoes. The ‘Nike Vaporfly 4%’ running shoes are a household name for elite road runners, even helping all three male medallists to the podium in the 2016 Olympic marathon.
The performance enhancement afforded by the super-shoe is generated by enhancing athlete’s running economy. This in turn means reducing the energetic cost of running at a given speed. In practice, this equates to a rough improvement in running performance of between 2% and 3%.
The super-shoe impact will inevitably spread to sprint distances in the near future. New technology will usher in a new cohort of world record holders. During this process of leaderboard recalibration, greater emphasis should be placed on results as opposed to times. After all, regardless of the technology, it’s titles that transcend generations, and medals that last longer than times.
So, if you are looking to be the envy of your friends in your next 5k time trial, super-shoes could be your answer.