The purposes of this investigation were to determine if increasing the bending stiffness of sprint shoes increases sprinting performance and to determine whether simple anthropometric factors can be used to predict shoe bending stiffness for optimal performance. Thirty-four athletes were tested using four different shoe conditions--a standard condition consisting of their currently used footwear and three conditions where the bending stiffness was increased systematically. The sprinters performed maximal effort 40 m sprints and their sprint times were recorded from 20 to 40 m. On average, increasing the shoe bending stiffness increased sprint performance. The stiffness each athlete required for his or her maximal performance was subject specific but was not related to subject mass, height, shoe size or skill level. It is speculated that individual differences in the force-length and force-velocity relationships of the calf muscles may influence the appropriate shoe stiffness for each athlete to obtain their maximal performance.