Super Shoes… a new era in running
Everything you need to know about Super Shoes
I bet you’re curious about the SUPER SHOE revolution.
These shoes look and feel very different from your normal runner’s and I bet you are wondering:
- if you could wear them
- which one you should choose
- should you invest in a pair
So, we’ve put together everything you need to know in a SPECIAL EDITION on Super Shoes.
On this page I’ll guide you through the latest information and research about these new ‘Super Shoes’:
- How do they work?
- Will they work for you?
- 5 reasons why carbon plate shoes make you run faster.
- What carbon plate shoes are on the market?
- Problems you may encounter.
- Updated research video (Runtalk #33) on why these shoes work.
- Research relating to Super Shoes.
Would I wear these shoes… Absolutely YES!!!
I’m still a keen runner in my 50’s, run under 25 minutes for 5km and have ambitions of rekindling my racing mojo and speed. There is enough evidence to show that there are benefits…
Let’s hope I’m a responder!!!
It will take a leap of faith to spend the money, but in my opinion, a leap worth taking.
Have a READ and then enjoy running in the softest, fastest feeling shoes on the market.
Steve Manning – “The Footman”
P.S You will want to try these on, as each feels a little different. Come and see us at the intraining Running Centre to test them out on our instore “running track”.
A little history
In the 2016 Men’s Olympic Marathon three Nike Runners were wearing a new prototype racing shoe. They were Eliud Kipchoge, Feyisa Lilesa and Galen Rupp. It had a curved carbon plate sandwiched between thick layers of a new type of lightweight and soft midsole cushion. While they were the only runners who wore these shoes they ended up being the three medalists. (Read below the 2016 Men’s Olympic Marathon).
Over the last three years, these carbon plated shoes have contributed to the obliteration of most distance running records including the 2-hour marathon in a staged time trial. Even more convincingly they have had an impact throughout the field, more than doubling the number of runners who qualified for the recent US Olympic marathon trials and forcing the Boston Marathon to increase their qualifying standards. They have been used for running distance races on the track instead of using the traditional spikes and have made a similar impact on the depth of high school performances.
This has resulted in the IAAF on January 31st releasing new rules on the use of these shoes by elite athletes. While prototype shoes had been previously banned, this rule had not been enforced and almost every sponsored athlete was running in a shoe not available to all athletes. The rule amendment was that from 30 April any shoe must have been available on the open market for four months before being used in competition. That meant shoe companies had to have their shoes available before 30 April if their athletes could use them at the Tokyo Olympics.
There were three new rules that needed to be met by shoe companies:
#1. The midsole stack height or thickness could not exceed 40mm or 4 centimetres.
The stack height in a traditional trainer is only 25mm at the heel and less in the forefoot
#2. The shoe must not have more than one rigid plate.
This probably is not significant as there are currently no shoes available with multiple plates and it may have no advantage to have multiple plates.
#3. For Spikes
An additional plate is allowed but only to attach spikes and the sole must not exceed 30mm. (Read the modified rules below).
Within days of these rulings, Nike came out with multiple shoes that closely matched these specifications. While Nike has got the jump on its competitors nearly every major running shoe company has released its own carbon plated super shoe. It should be noted that these rules only apply to IAAF ranked athletes so there is nothing to stop shoe brands from selling shoes outside these specifications to non-ranked runners. It is also likely to be impractical to check even elite runners shoes at races as carbon plates do not show up on x-ray and shoe companies have a history of making their prototypes look like current shoes. Enforcement of these rules is not going to happen.
How do they work?
The idea of creating stiffness at the forefoot was actually first theorised in 2004 by a researcher at the University of Calgary named Stefanyshyn. (Read Stefanyshyn research below).
His team were designing shoes for sprinting spikes. He found that on average increasing shoe bending stiffness increased sprint performance. The difficulty is that the optimum bending stiffness for each athlete varied and was not related to any other factor like size or ability. It took a long time for this idea to be used for distance running shoes.
The basic principle of increasing stiffness at the big toe so it won’t bend is to reduce the amount of work by the little muscles in your feet and the deeper muscles in your calf. This stiffness causes compensation and changed mechanics in other areas. However, the total outcome is more efficiency or less energy required at the same work rate or speed.
The mass-spring model of running biomechanics is a mathematical model that explains that as the system moves towards greater stiffness efficiency increases. The carbon plate creates midsole bending stiffness at the forefoot reducing or preventing flexion of the big toe joint. Anytime a joint flex the system loses power. When you prevent flexion at the big toe joint it creates stiffness up the kinetic chain. The carbon plate stops the joint of the big toe from bending and because it stops it from bending you don’t lose power.
There is an added change in function when preventing forefoot flexion occurring. It results in a longer lever arm and more mechanical advantage at the ankle. In effect, your leg is longer so your stride length is increased with no extra effort. This is further enhanced by having significantly thicker midsoles. Biomechanics Guru Benno Nigg has suggested that almost all of the benefits in efficiency from these shoes comes from the midsole bending stiffness rather than flexion of the plate or the midsole properties.
With the research studies on distance runners, they looked at how much CO2 runners excelled at different paces in traditional shoes and the new shoes with carbon plates. This was an indication of how much energy was required to maintain that pace. The result was between 0 and 6% change with the carbon plated shoes. When South African researcher Ross Tucker analysed the research he felt that they should be banned because when the “difference made by technology is larger than the normal difference between athletes, then the integrity of the result is changed.” It should be noted that a 6% reduction in oxygen consumption does not directly correlate to the same reduction in performance. (Read the South African researcher Ross Tucker analysed the research below).
Will these shoes work for me?
Recent research has shown that these super lightweight shoes with carbon plates have the same impact on altered function with recreational Runners as it does with Elite Runners. (Read The Effects of Increased Midsole Bending Stiffness below).
The stiffer you are the more efficient you become, and you’re going to use less energy. In a distance running event that means that you’ll be able to run faster for longer. There is not currently any research to show if faster runners will benefit more or less than slower runners with these shoes. More talented faster runners are more likely to be able to cope with the compensation that is required to use these shoes and may have less injury risk than recreational runners.
The much harder question is identifying if you are a responder or non-responder. The response to these shoes is not related to body weight, height or running ability. The only significant findings were those heel strikers are more likely to be responders as well as runners with less ground contact time. Interestingly carbon plate shoes reduce footstrike angle and increase stride length while increasing ground contact time.
5 reasons why carbon plate shoes make you run faster.
Reducing the weight of your shoes has a significant impact on your efficiency. Your feet are the part of your body that moves the most when you run. By trimming weight off there you can reduce your energy demands saving limited glycogen reserves for later.
#2. Stiffness = efficiency
The mass-spring model of running biomechanics is a mathematical equation that explains that as the system moves towards greater stiffness efficiency increases. The carbon plate creates midsole bending stiffness at the forefoot reducing or preventing flexion of the big toe joint. Anytime a joint flex the system loses power. When you prevent flexion at the big toe joint it creates stiffness up the kinetic chain.
#3. More power
The carbon plate directs more power where it is needed into the ground. One of the benefits of a stiff forefoot is that the force you are creating is focused where it is most effective. This gives you a feeling that you are popping off the ground when running.
#4. A change in function
When you significantly alter the function of the forefoot by increasing bending stiffness it alters the mechanics of other structures as well. With improved mechanical efficiency there is a change in function. This change in function may lead to increased injury risk in some runners. For this reason, it appears that different runners may benefit from different shoes.
#5. The Placebo effect
This might still be the most important factor. If you think these shoes will make you faster than maybe they can. Unfortunately due to the obvious difference between these shoes and a traditional racer, it is impossible to do a blinded research study that would be needed to identify the power of the placebo effect.
What carbon plate shoes are on the market?
The Brooks Hyperion Elite
Has just come out and only 100 pair were allocated to Australia (with 11 pair at intraining). They were the next most popular shoe after the Nike’s at the recent US Olympic trials marathon. Their carbon plate is slightly different with some torsional stability making it a carbon plate shoe with more support. They are joined by the Hyperion Tempo which is a non-carbon plated shoe with a nitrogen-infused midsole. [Read the Footman’s review].
The HOKA Carbon X
Has been a successful ultramarathon racer. It is slightly heavier but much more robust and durable. Jim Walmsley set the world 100-mile record and Queensland’s Clay Dawson won the 100km Australian championships in a pair. The Carbon Rocket is a trimmed down pair that was released the day after the Olympic Trials. [Available now at intraining Running Centre].
The Saucony Endorphin Pro
Was originally going to be released in June but may be brought back to April. It is a very well cushioned carbon plate shoe that was worn by the second place female in the US trials. [Read The Footman’s review]
Asics Metaracer Tokyo
This shoe was slatted to come out for the Olympics. It is a carbon plated update to the metaracer line in a Japanese colour palette. [Listen to Steve and Margot Runtalk #52]
The New Balance FuelCell TC
Have a carbon plate update to their fuel cell line the NB Fuel Cell RC Elite. Again likely to be pulled forward from its August release date. Their first carbon plate shoe was a specialist Road Mile shoe. [Available now at intraining Running Centre].
Nike Zoom Alphafly Next%
Nike’s latest shoe might be $400 US dollars which with our latest exchange rate could mean $700 Australian dollars! The original Vaporfly 4% and the followup Next% changed running forever. Some runners have preferred the feel of the older versions. (Not available at intraining)
The individual variability and effectiveness of carbon plate shoes in research has led to the responder and non-responder categories. With the many different shoes now coming on the market, future research may find that a runner that is a non-responder in one shoe may be a responder in another. The best way to find out whether these shoes will work for you is to come into the shop and have a run in them. intraining currently has the Brooks Hyperion Elite and the Hoka Carbon X with many more models arriving over the next few months. Why not Carbon charge your running races this year with the latest aid to a PB.
Problems you may encounter.
#1. They block forefoot flexion
The reason that they are more efficient may also be a problem with runners who have a dysfunction in a joint in the sagittal plane. Compensation for the forefoot block alters the mechanics in gait and may increase stress and injury at the forefoot or up the kinetic chain.
#2. They do not last
When the shoes are already more expensive and they do not last as long then the value for money is reduced. A traditional shoe costing around $200 can last up to 1000km making it cost around 20 cents a kilometre. A $400 shoe that lasts 200km costs ten times as much per kilometre.
#3. They may increase instability
The midsoles of these shoes are very soft and much thicker so you are higher off the ground on an unstable base. Even with the carbon plate, it can still be a problem as they resist flexion at the forefoot rather than torsion through the rearfoot and midfoot. If excessive force is being deflected sideways rather than into the ground then they may be less efficient as well as a higher injury risk.
#4. They are expensive
Production costs are increased significantly when a carbon plate needs to be inserted within the midsole. The new midsole compounds like the nitrogen-infused Brooks Hyperion Tempo are also more expensive to use.
My OPINION… Would I wear these shoes??
As I said earlier, I’m in my 50’s and have ambitions of rekindling my racing mojo and speed. There is enough evidence to show that there are benefits…
Let’s hope I’m a responder!!!
I hope you are a responder too!
If you have any questions email me at [email protected]
Research relating to Super Shoes.
Looking for the super shoe that fits for you?…
Come see us at intraining and try them on!
Call (07) 3367 3088 or email [email protected]