The rapid development of marathon running times is fascinating. First the Ethiopian Tigist Assefa ran the world record, then the Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum. The shoe factor plays an important role.
After the marathon world records this year, the shoes of the top athletes have once again come into focus. “It’s important to me that the focus is on the athlete. The athlete delivers the performance, it doesn’t come from the shoes. Sure, four percent can make a big difference. But records will never fall just because of the shoes,” says Wolfgang Potthast , who heads the clinical and technological biomechanics department at the German Sport University.
“Maybe it’s due to other things, maybe it’s due to sports science findings, maybe there is significant training-related development. Performance is also getting better and better in other endurance sports, such as cycling – and cyclists don’t wear running shoes,” says Potthast.
The Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum ran a world record in Chicago a month ago in 2:00:35 hours, as did the Ethiopian Tigist Assefa in Berlin in September when she crossed the finish line after 42.195 kilometers in 2:11:53 hours.
Advanced footwear technology
“The hype about the so-called super shoes hasn’t just started in the last few weeks. In science it’s called Advanced Footwear Technology (AFT). The development of Nike’s Vaporfly has been carefully monitored for a long time using really very good scientific methods. “This showed that this shoe or this type of shoe can reduce oxygen intake by four percent at high speeds in very well-trained amateur runners,” explains Potthast.
“This means that the muscles require four percent less energy and therefore run more economically. In other words, they can run four percent faster using the same amount of energy,” he explains.
Weight, carbon plate and foam
The combination of weight, carbon plate and foam optimizes the shoe. Ultimately, better times are possible due to the overall reduced energy loss. “With 40,000 steps in a marathon, that adds up to a lot,” says the scientist.
Potthast is cautious about the question of whether the new super shoes pose any disadvantages for the body. “It’s not that easy to determine. You would need well-controlled studies, which is really difficult. What is certain, however, is that such shoes are not suitable for all runners,” emphasizes the professor.
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