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Super Shoes – Will they make you run faster?

super shoes do they make you run faster

Super Shoes – will they make you run faster?

By super shoe, I am referring to a shoe with a carbon fibre plate in the sole.

Some examples of super shoes are:

  • Nike Vaporfly
  • Saucony Endorphin Pro
  • Adidas Adios Pro
  • Asics Metaspeed
  • Hoka Carbon X

Pre and Post Super Shoes

This new shoe technology was introduced to road running in 2016 and track running in 2019, and since their introduction virtually all endurance running world records, from the 5000m to the marathon, have been broken.

They are considered to be such an advantage, that some previous world record holders have been calling for there to be two sets of records. Pre and Post super shoes.

It seems like a similar issue to the 2008-2010 period when swimmers were wearing full body suits and most of the existing world records were beaten. Those suits were banned though by the governing body whereas super shoes seem like they are here to stay.

From a scientific perspective, it seems that some people stand to gain more advantage from super shoes than others. There is a great podcast from The Real Science of Sport team if you want to learn more about super shoes.

Super shoes shaved 1 minute off my Parkrun

My interest in super shoes is my own recent experience running in them. I was shocked at how much faster I could run in them.

My local Park Run in the Blue Mountains is a very hilly and rocky trail course. It isn’t a fast course, and certainly isn’t suitable for super shoes. In the past 4-5 weeks, however, I have had the opportunity to run on 4 fast and flat Park Run courses.

The first was in NZ where I was visiting my parents.  I ran a 19:08 in a pair of Altra Lone Peak trail shoes. I was running at what felt like pretty close to 100% effort, and I was quite tight and tired afterwards.

The following weekend I was in Jindabyne and ran 19:36 in the same pair of Altra trail shoes, and again I felt like I was going as hard as I could on the day.

The weekend after Jindabyne I took my 13-year-old daughter to the Perith Lakes Park Run at the international rowing regatta. She had been wanting to beat her two older brothers park run times.  So this was the perfect opportunity on a flat and fast course . We were both wearing Nike Vayporflys. This was only my second time ever wearing a super shoe.

We ran 19:23, which earned Lulu a 2-minute PB and bragging rights at the dinner table. I felt like I was running at about 75-80% effort, and didn’t feel either tight or tired afterwards.

Reflecting on the run on the drive back home, it felt so easy that I sort of felt like I had cheated!

The last of my “flat park run streak” was the weekend after Penrith down in Bright, Victoria. I was wearing the Vayporflys again, but this time I gave it 100% effort and ran 18:06. This was my fastest Parkrun since 2018. So in the space of 4 weeks I had managed to take 1 minute off my Parkrun time and the only thing I can put it down to is the shoes.

My clients are getting similar results

I put the question to our physio clients and running members and the feedback was overwhelmingly in favour of the super shoes for (a) making you faster and (b) making the post-run recovery faster.

The feedback seemed fairly similar across a large range of super shoes including Nike, Saucony, Hoka, Asics and Altra.

Another overwhelming bit of feedback about the road super shoes is that you have to be running fast/hard in them to reap the rewards. The way the carbon plate is designed is to rock you forwards. You need to be running a bit more on the front of your foot for them to work properly.

What about Trail Super Shoes?

The discussion did raise some interesting questions about whether super shoes would also help you to run faster on trails.

The answer to this depends, I think, on the person, the terrain and the shoe.

I don’t think any of the road versions of the super shoes are particularly well suited to trail running.

They tend to have a high stack height and they are made of very soft and easily damaged foam.  They are generally quite narrow shoes with minimal grip. You could get away with them on some non-technical fire-trail terrain, but they will be very unstable on anything even remotely technical.

The trail versions of the super shoes that I have seen are a lot lower profile, with better durability, more grip and a wider sole. They are much more suited to all sorts of trail terrain and therefore I think most people will be able to find a model that they like.

Varied trail terrain makes it harder to get the same benefits

I think that there are potential advantages wearing a trail super shoe, but it will be less obvious and harder to measure/define than the road running shoes.

I have a pair of North Face Sky Vectivs which I like. They are light and comfortable and they feel quite fast, but I haven’t noticed the dramatic difference that I feel in the Vayporflys.

I haven’t given up on the trail super shoe. I will continue to experiment with them to see what performance benefits can be gained as they evolve.

Running Cadence will help you benefit from a super shoe

To get the benefits from the super shoes I believe you have to have good technique.  The best place to start when working on technique is your running cadence.

Running at a faster cadence will help improve your running. Super shoe or not. It’s as simple as that.

Super shoes and running cadence

Whether you are new to running, a park runner, or a seasoned marathon runner, cadence matters!

If you are struggling to get faster or you are starting to pick up injuries, it may be in part to your cadence!

In this article, I explain what cadence is and why cadence is important. Then we will focus on how to improve your current cadence to achieve the goal standard of “180” steps per minute.