Background: Reducing the energetic cost of running seems the most feasible path to a sub-2-hour marathon. Footwear mass, cushioning, and bending stiffness each affect the energetic cost of running. Recently, prototype running shoes were developed that combine a new highly compliant and resilient midsole material with a stiff embedded plate.
Objective: The aim of this study was to determine if, and to what extent, these newly developed running shoes reduce the energetic cost of running compared with established marathon racing shoes.
Methods: 18 high-caliber athletes ran six 5-min trials (three shoes × two replicates) in prototype shoes (NP), and two established marathon shoes (NS and AB) during three separate sessions: 14, 16, and 18 km/h. We measured submaximal oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide production during minutes 3-5 and averaged energetic cost (W/kg) for the two trials in each shoe model.
Results: Compared with the established racing shoes, the new shoes reduced the energetic cost of running in all 18 subjects tested. Averaged across all three velocities, the energetic cost for running in the NP shoes (16.45 ± 0.89 W/kg; mean ± SD) was 4.16 and 4.01% lower than in the NS and AB shoes, when shoe mass was matched (17.16 ± 0.92 and 17.14 ± 0.97 W/kg, respectively, both p < 0.001). The observed percent changes were independent of running velocity (14-18 km/h).
Conclusion: The prototype shoes lowered the energetic cost of running by 4% on average. We predict that with these shoes, top athletes could run substantially faster and achieve the first sub-2-hour marathon.