The new running shoe research that could help you run 2 minutes quicker over 10k.

Triathlon Training - Speed Running Spencer SmithTriathlete, Cyclist and Sports Scientist, Garth Fox tells us how.

The definition of economy is getting more for less. Your choice of shoes can really influence your running economy. The latest research by Harvard University and the University of Colorado suggest’s that footwear has a direct effect on running economy and that the most expensive shoes aren’t always the best; quite the opposite in fact.

The future is plimsolls?

The research team at Harvard University studied the effects of running in plimsolls. They examined not only whether these ultra-lightweight, non-supportive shoes made any difference to economy but also whether your foot strike type (forefoot or heel) mattered. This is important because over 75 per cent of runners wearing standard running shoes land on their heels, whereas barefoot runners and those who wear very light shoes tend to land on the ball of the foot.

Run two minutes faster

They found that running in ultra-lightweight non-supportive shoes was about three per cent more economical than running in standard running shoes, and that it made no difference whether you landed on your heel or ball first – a three per cent improvement is about a saving of two minutes over 10km.

However, the Harvard study made allowances for the shoe weight. Running in lighter shoes is always going to be more efficient than heavy ones. If it wasn’t the weight difference that improved economy, what was it? They suggested that wearing minimal shoes may in fact allow the spring-like structures of the foot to work better than when they are over-supported, which in turn improves their elastic energy storage and recoil characteristics. If plimsoll-type shoes are better than normal trainers, is barefoot best of all?

Barefoot may not be best

According to researchers from Colorado, barefoot running isn’t necessarily the fastest. They found that running without shoes offered no metabolic advantage over running in minimal shoes, and even suggested that shoes that have a little cushioning, with very little heel drop, may even improve running economy by about three to four per cent over barefoot running. They felt that although the body is capable of absorbing impact forces during running, doing so is energetically costly. Therefore, a small amount of cushioning may be beneficial, but not so much that it interferes with foot biomechanics.

A note of caution

If running more economically is your goal, then the latest research tells us that the lighter and less supportive end of the shoe spectrum is where you should be looking. However, moving straight over to lightweight shoes isn’t always a good idea, and can lead to injury. Any equipment changes you make should be gradual to allow the body time to adjust

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

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