Monday, March 20, 2017

Could sneakers be the key to a faster marathon?

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly

As I have talked about my running sneaker choices, I realize that shoes could make a run more comfortable, more stable, but could they make you faster?

Sneaker company Nike has teamed up with elite runners and scientists since 2014 to achieve a sub 2 hour marathon, something some believe is impossible. The effort is known as Breaking2. The current fastest time is 2:03:03, quite impressive given how many recreational runners struggle to sub 2 a half marathon.

As part of that effort, Nike is releasing new sneakers. 

The Zoom Vaporfly Elite is only for the runners trying to break the 2 hour mark. The new revolution is a ultra light weigh cushioning material, known as ZoomX. The cushioning is lighter and softer than traditional foams, allowing more of it to be added, while still keep the shoe light. As a result, according to Nike, the sneakers are taller and more responsive while providing more cushioning from the road than a traditional racing shoe. The height of the shoe is also designed to reduce Achilles tendon strain. The sneakers only weigh 6.5 ounces, very light for a running shoe.

The Zoom Vaporfly has a unique heel designed to reduce drag, according to Runner's World.

The upper is Nike Flyknit, a knit material designed to be supportive. 

In between 2 layers of foam is the most controversial part, a carbon-fiber plate. According to Nike the plate adds stiffness and helps reduce energy loss. According to the New York Times, the plate is shaped like a spoon and acts "as a kind of slingshot, or catapult, to propel runners forward." 

The plate is designed to reduce 4 percent of the energy required to run. The NY Times says that's the equivalent of running downhill 1 to 1.5 percent.

That's where the controversy comes in. as any shoes that give an unfair advantage, like a spring are banned. According to the NY Times, Spira Footwear had shoes banned because of spring technology.

So far the Nike Zoom Vaporfly is allowed. Runners have worn an earlier version to great success. "The shoes cushioned the feet of all three medalists in the men’s marathon at the Rio Olympics last summer. Later, in the fall, they were worn by the winners of major marathons in Berlin, Chicago and New York," according to the NY Times.

Unless you're an elite runner, you're not getting the Zoom Vaporfly Elite, but Runner's World says the Zoom Vaporfly 4% will be available soon for $250. The shoe is the same without customization. The 4 percent is linked to Nike's claim that the shoes let you use 4 percent less energy to maintain the same pace than other sneakers.

The Zoom Vaporfly 4%

Nike is also releasing the Zoom Fly for $150. Its designed for the general public which needs more cushioning to run a marathon. It uses a different foam than ZoomX, but it is still lighter and softer. It also has a carbon plate, but its less stiff. It also has a thicker outersole, to make them last longer. The sneaker should be fast, but still very cushioned, according to Runner's World. It will weight more at 8.5 ounces, but still on the lighter side for distance running. 

What do you think of the sneakers and would you buy them?

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1 comment:

  1. I'd love to read about the influence of few design characteristics on shoes' performance - gas cushioning, like in Nike Air Max 270 and is sock-shoe better for running or not?