The right shoes could help athletes reduces their race times.
A team, led by Stéphane Bermon of World Athletics, Monaco, has found that times from long distance races significantly decreased since 2017, which directly coincided with the release of the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoe.
In their analysis, the team compared race times of elite athletes in 10km, marathon and half-marathon races between 2012-2019. Both male and female runners benefited from the new shoes, but female athletes benefited the most.
For women, marathon times of athletes who wore the runners decreased full marathon times by an average of 2 minutes and 10 seconds and performed between 1.7% to 2.3% better overall.
Men, on the other hand only performed 0.6% to 1.5% better.
The difference could be due to weight of the athlete.
“Women are lighter and could possibly benefit more from the enhanced rebound effect achieved by the foam/stiff plate combination,” says Bermon.
“Their slightly different running pattern, compared to men, could represent a more favourable condition for this footwear technology to play its ergogenic role.”
In the study, top athletes were measured, which means the sample population was dominated by East African runners, such as Ethiopians and Kenyans. But the paper, published in Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, noted that other runners also experienced the same effect.
“These results confirm that advanced footwear technology has benefits to the elite male and female distance runners,” says Bermon.
“Whether this technology will be banned or simply controlled, as it is currently, is still to be decided by World Athletics.”
The authors state in the paper that “the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.”
The Royal Institution of Australia has an Education resource based on this article. You can access it here.
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Deborah Devis is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (Honours) in biology and philosophy from the University of Sydney, and a PhD in plant molecular genetics from the University of Adelaide.
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