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Can Your Shoes Make You Faster?

In 2017, Nike launched a running shoe with the intention of breaking the two-hour barrier in the marathon (42,195 km). Nike noted that its footwear gave a clear advantage over long distances due to the cushioning and profile of the footwear. Now, a team of scientists, led by Iain Hunter, decided to test whether those statements were true.

The study, published in the Journal of Sport Sciences, compared the Nike Vaporfly 4%, the Adidas Adios Boost and the Nike Zoom Streak, which according to the authors are the most popular among elite marathon runners.

To measure the effectiveness of these shoes, nineteen volunteers participated in two days of testing. To be selected for the test, they had to be able to run 10 km in less than 32 minutes, a figure slightly above that necessary to qualify in the 2020 Olympics. The volunteers completed five-minute races at a speed of 6:00 minutes per mile (1,609 meters) on a belt, followed by five minutes of rest to change shoes until they had used all three models of shoes twice.

After conducting the tests, the team discovered that the benefit offered by the Nike Vaporfly 4% was sufficient to reduce the cost of running energy by 2.8% on average compared to the other shoes, which ultimately instance could improve race time by several minutes.

“The Vaporfly 4% has the ability to allow runners to use less energy when they run,” Hunter says in a statement. It seems to help especially those who spend less time on the ground than those who spend more time on the ground when they run. We add some measurements on the tape to understand what makes it effective. and how people move differently when they use it.”

The treadmill measures three-dimensional force when someone is running on it. It captures information linked to how long the runner is on the ground, how much he is pushing back and forth at each step, where the foot touches the ground, how much force the foot applies and the stride length.

“Muscles contract to help tendons absorb and restore energy,” Hunter adds. “If the sole of an energy-efficient shoe can contribute to this, less muscle work is required, which improves the running economy.”

The data showed significant differences in oxygen consumption, a way of measuring the cost of running energy. Since it is such an important component of endurance performance, even a small change in oxygen consumption, it is probably significant for a runner and can be added along the 42 km of the marathon.

In addition, the Nike Vaporfly 4% increased the stride an average of 2 centimeters, which seems very little, but in a marathon, they add 200 meters, with the same effort.

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