A month before the biggest track and field event of the year, a dizzying array of fast-paced performances are heating up local and professional competitions.
In the spring, the University of Washington track and field team produced eight under-4-minute Milers. In June alone, four high school runners broke that wall in the same race.3 world records on Pro Circuit Shattered within a week in Paris in JuneFaith Kipyegon of Kenya set new records in both the women’s 1,500m and 5,000m, while Ethiopia’s Ramecha Girma set a new record in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase.
On Friday night, Kipyegon set another record by breaking the women’s 1-mile world record by almost five seconds at the tape break-in. 4 minutes 7.64 seconds. The performance surprised track and field fans accustomed to records improving by just tenths of a second.
The question is why so many times so fast. — I’ve been asked and answered endlessly. A pacing technology called Wavelight certainly helps. The same goes for the ever-evolving range of super shoes. A thicker, springier launch with a midsole plate has revolutionized racing in recent years by giving runners more rebound energy when they launch.
But many sports scientists think otherwise. It is the result of several years of training in special shoes. And it benefits recreational runners, too.
“Shoes are a new tool, and the more you run with them, the more they adapt,” says Jeff Burns, a physiologist and biomechanics expert with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
Burns and other sports scientists firmly believe in a principle known as the specificity principle. That means runners need to train the same way they race to compete at their best. That means running at a race pace, drinking the same fluids, taking the same gels, and perhaps most importantly, wearing the same shoes.
Super shoes arrived in 2016, when Nike shocked the world with the first platform, energy-returning shoe, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. The sport’s governing body, World Athletics, has started limiting the midsole height of his 2020 shoe because it was noticeably faster than its predecessor. Today, all major shoe companies have Super shoes in their line-ups, and hundreds of thousands of everyday runners wear them.
For elite athletes, it has become difficult to resist the allure of both training and racing in supershoes. Lindsay Flanagan, who has her best marathon time of 2:24:43, will be one of three U.S. women to compete in the World Championship Marathon in Budapest in August.
“I wear super shoes when I race, so I want to get a feel for them in training,” Flanagan said. “I found that my legs recovered faster, so I had a more productive day and increased total mileage.”
But Flanagan also knows some professional runners who don’t train in Supershoes. They believe that they can build strength by wearing traditional shoes, and even more power by wearing improved shoes on race day.
Of course, “Nietzsche’s principle” may also apply. In other words, what doesn’t kill people makes them stronger. Recent pilot studies Researchers at California State University East Bay found evidence of this by comparing fitness improvements in runners wearing traditional racing flats and supershoes. Runners wearing flat shoes reported more muscle soreness, but had better running economy than those wearing super shoes.
Adam Tenford and Amol Saxena, two experts who study running injuries, believe that using Supershoes can cause serious illness. In February they co-wrote an article Published in sports medicine journal This paper presents five case studies of scaphoid injuries resulting from the use of super shoes.
“I’ve seen serious shoe injuries in runners at all levels, including high school runners, recreational runners, and elite athletes,” Saxena said. “Shoes can put unusual stress on bone and soft tissue structures.”
On the other hand, there are no known reviews of supershoe injury rates following standard statistical models. And two of Supershoe’s leading researchers, Wouter Hoogkammer and Max Puckett, say they haven’t seen convincing data that a runner’s biomechanics are dramatically different in Supershoe versus conventional shoes.
Physiologist Barnes and Stephen F. Austin State University exercise physiologist Dustin Joubert also found that, contrary to what many expected, supershoes had a longer functional life than traditional shoes. They found that the Supershoe’s high-density foam midsole could retain its cushioning and energy return properties longer than the softer EVA midsole of its predecessor.
Older runners may also benefit from the softer cushioning of the Super Shoe. Bill Salazar, a 77-year-old runner from Arizona, has been training for more than three years, logging about 35 miles a week.
“For me, the big benefit is that I recover faster with the Supershoes,” said Salazar, who ran the 4:22 marathon in Berlin last September.
Similar cushioning and recovery benefits have been reported by many top runners. They said that before in marathons he was “hitting the wall” beyond 20 miles, but now, even with his super shoes on, his leg muscles aren’t as fatigued, allowing him to finish stronger and faster.
At the London Marathon in April, new Kenyan runners Kelvin Kiptum Wearing the Supershoes, he recorded the second fastest marathon time of 2:01:25. Kiptum ran his first 13.1 miles in 1:01:40 and the second leg in 59:45.
Apparently my legs weren’t that tired.