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BYU study says running shoes can determine your speed

Photo: Nike

PROVO, Utah — Can your running shoes make you faster? A recent study done at BYU finds that some popular running shoes can save energy and lengthen strides, improving race times.

Two years ago, Nike released a new shoe and challenged marathon runners to complete their race in under two hours. The shoe, Vaporfly 4%,  was designed to cut the amount of energy runners exerted, allowing them to run faster for longer.

The study was originally conducted by the University of Colorado when it ran into problems publishing. The university then contacted BYU who took the study and expanded on it, making it their original research.

Led by Iain Hunter, the team of BYU researchers set out to find whether this shoe could actually decrease race times. The study compared male runners using the Nike Vaporfly 4%, Adidas Adios Boost, and Nike Zoom Streak shoes, some of the most popular shoes among marathon runners.

“We had them running on a treadmill while we measured the oxygen use,” said Hunter, professor of exercise sciences. “Which tells how much energy they’re using to run.”

They found that the Vaporfly 4% allowed runners to use 2.8% less energy. It also found that runners who spend less time on the ground have a larger benefit using that shoe.

These findings could change the future of racing, Hunter said.

“There’s probably two potential [changes],” Hunter said. “One is some rules will start changing that prohibit some modifications to running shoes and maybe that will hinder some of these progressions in performance times. The other possibility is there will be some really good developments […] that we’ll keep seeing improvements in performance.”

Hunter said he believes other shoe companies will begin to follow suit, developing shoes that are more innovative and that will make room for greater progress.

“I relate it to the Tour de France,” Hunter said. “If they were using bikes that were [used] twenty years ago, they’d have no hope.”

*Disclaimer: BYU athletics is sponsored by Nike, but the BYU department of science was not given any discounts or endorsements for using Nike shoes.