Do high tech running shoes really help slower runners improve?

Image of two runners to demonstrate running with high tech running shoes
© iStock/simonkr

The University of Colorado Boulder asked the question of whether high tech running shoes really make a difference to the times of slower runners, or whether they are mainly beneficial for athletes.

Many in the running community may ask whether there is any point in purchasing a pair of high tech running shoes if you have a slow running time. The researchers have made the perhaps reassuring discovery that if you are a slower runner, you could see a bigger improvement with high tech shoes than if you have a faster running time.

The lead author Shalaya Kipp, a former graduate student in the Department of Integrative Physiology, explained: “We found that at faster speeds, you get significantly less benefit from improving your running economy than you do at slower speeds.”

The postdoctoral researcher Wouter Hoogkamer co-authored the paper with Kipp and Integrative Physiology Professor Rodger Kram. Hoogkamer said: “For a long time, most people assumed there was a directly proportional linear relationship: That if you improved running economy by X percent you could run X percent faster. We set out to re-evaluate that relationship and found that this is not the case.”

Kipp added: “A lot of times recreational runners assume these things are just going to benefit elite athletes when the reality is they can benefit even more than the elites.”

Kipp noted that if a slower runner wears a pair of shoes which improve the running economy by four percent, this could actually translate to as much as a five percent finish time improvement. Meanwhile, a person who runs faster than nine minutes per mile would see a much less significant improvement. For example, a one percent improvement in a 2:03:00 marathoner would enable them to run only .65 percent faster, which is a mere 47 second improvement on their finish time.

More tips to improve your running time

Kipp adds that other measures can also be helpful in boosting your metabolic efficiency, such as:

  • Drinking beet juice;
  • Drafting behind another runner;
  • Doing plyometric exercises.
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