Skip Navigation

Super Shoes: The Future of Running or the End of the Sport?

Super Shoes: The Future of Running or the End of the Sport?

Imagine running a marathon in less than two hours, or breaking the world record by several minutes. Sounds impossible, right? Well, not if you have a pair of “super shoes” on your feet.

Super shoes are the latest innovation in running footwear, and they are causing a sensation in the sport. They are designed to boost the performance of elite runners by making them faster, more efficient, and more comfortable.

Key Takeaways

  • How super shoes, which cost as much as an iPhone and have advanced technology, are helping runners break records and creating a competition among shoe companies.
  • The features and benefits of super shoes, such as their lightness, cushioning, springiness, and propulsion.
  • The controversy and debate around super shoes, as some runners think they give an unfair advantage and compare them to the banned high-tech swimsuits in swimming.
  • Super shoes are very expensive and niche, but they could help boost the popularity and sales of the shoe brands that make them. It also speculates that one day, the technology could become more affordable and accessible for the everyday consumer.
  • Super shoes could be the key to breaking the two-hour mark in a marathon, which has never been done before.

But what are super shoes, and how do they work? And why are they so controversial and expensive? Here’s everything you need to know about the race to develop the ultimate running shoes.

What are Super Shoes?

Super shoes are running shoes that have advanced technology and features that enhance the runner’s speed and endurance. They are very light, cushioned, and springy, and they have a “stacked foam, carbon-plated, rocker design” that helps propel the runner forward.

The stacked foam is a thick layer of soft and responsive material that absorbs the impact of each step and returns energy to the runner. The carbon plate is a thin and rigid insert that runs along the length of the shoe and acts as a lever that increases the force of each push-off. The rocker design is a curved shape that mimics the natural motion of the foot and reduces the braking effect of each landing.

The combination of these elements creates a shoe that reduces the energy loss and fatigue of the runner, and allows them to run faster and longer.

Who are the Super Shoe Makers?

The super shoe market is dominated by two major players: Nike and Adidas. Both companies have invested heavily in research and development to create their own versions of super shoes, and they have been competing fiercely to attract the best athletes and win the most races.

Nike was the first to introduce super shoes in 2016, when it launched the Vaporfly 4%, a shoe that claimed to improve the running economy of the wearer by 4%. The shoe was worn by Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan runner who became the first person to run a marathon in under two hours in 2019, albeit in a non-official event.

Since then, Nike has released several iterations of the Vaporfly, such as the Next%, the Alphafly, and the Dev 163 prototype. The latter was worn by Kelvin Kiptum, another Kenyan runner who shattered the men’s marathon record in 2023, posting a time of 2:00:35.

Adidas, on the other hand, launched its super shoe in 2020, the Adizero Adios Pro. The shoe features a similar design to the Vaporfly, but with a different foam material and a different carbon plate configuration. The shoe was worn by Tigst Assefa, the Ethiopian runner who obliterated the women’s marathon record in 2023, recording a time of 2:11:53.

Other shoe companies, such as Brooks, Saucony, New Balance, and On, have also joined the race to develop their own super shoes, hoping to challenge the dominance of Nike and Adidas.

Why are Super Shoes Controversial?

Super shoes have sparked a lot of debate and controversy in the running community, as some people think they give an unfair advantage to the runners who wear them, and that they distort the true measure of human performance.

Some critics compare super shoes to the high-tech swimsuits that were banned in swimming in 2009, after they helped swimmers break dozens of world records in a short span of time. They argue that super shoes are a form of technological doping, and that they undermine the spirit and integrity of the sport.

Others, however, defend super shoes as a legitimate and inevitable evolution of running equipment, and that they are accessible to anyone who can afford them. They point out that running shoes have always improved over time, and that super shoes are just the latest innovation that reflects the progress of science and engineering.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body of the sport, has issued some rules and regulations to limit the use of super shoes in official competitions. For example, the shoes must have a maximum sole thickness of 40 millimeters, and they must be available to the public for at least four months before they can be used in a race.

However, some experts and athletes think that these rules are not enough, and that more testing and transparency are needed to ensure a level playing field and to preserve the credibility of the sport.

Why are Super Shoes Expensive?

Super shoes are not cheap. They cost around $500, which is about the same as an iPhone, and they have a limited lifespan. Some super shoes are designed to be worn only once or twice, as they lose their effectiveness after a few miles.

The high price of super shoes is due to the high cost of research and development, the scarcity of the materials, and the exclusivity of the products. Super shoes are also a way for shoe companies to create a halo effect around their brands, and to attract more customers and sales.

However, super shoes are not only for elite runners. Some amateur runners also buy super shoes, either to improve their personal records, or to experience the feeling of running faster and easier. Some super shoes are also more durable and versatile, and can be used for training and racing.

Moreover, some experts predict that super shoes will become more affordable and accessible in the future, as the technology becomes more widespread and the competition increases. Super shoes could also inspire new innovations and applications in other fields, such as health, fitness, and mobility.

What’s Next for Super Shoes?

Super shoes are not the end of the road for running innovation. They are just the beginning. Shoe companies are constantly working on new designs and features to make their super shoes even better, and to gain an edge over their rivals.

One of the main goals of super shoe makers is to break the two-hour barrier in a marathon, which has never been done before in an official race. Some experts believe that this feat is possible, and that super shoes could be the key to achieving it.

However, super shoes are not the only factor that influences running performance. Other factors, such as genetics, training, nutrition, hydration, weather, course, and strategy, also play a role. And, of course, the human will and spirit.

Super shoes are not magic. They are tools. They can help runners run faster and longer, but they cannot run for them. Runners still need to put in the hard work, the dedication, and the passion to reach their goals.

Super shoes are not the ultimate answer. They are the ultimate question. How fast can we run? How far can we go? How much can we improve? Super shoes challenge us to find out.