A running shoe revolution?

24 Jul A running shoe revolution?

Running shoes are a hotly debated topic. Over a number of years we have seen a significant increase in shoes in the market, with varying trends and developments. Most recently a particular running shoe has seen an impressive reduction in elite marathon times. Our podiatrist and running physio guru evaluate this latest trend in running shoes and whether this is the shoe for you.

We are in the midst of a running shoe revolution

Nike’s Vaporfly range (and subsequent Alphafly and Next%) have been recently leading the way with three main features:

  • Super-thick midsole
  • A new midsole foam material
  • Carbon fibre plate


These features alone aren’t new to running footwear, but Nike have perfected the combination. This equates to a 2-3 minute reduction in elite marathon times. The five fastest marathon times ever recorded were achieved since 2018 all wearing Vaporflys, and in 2019, 31 of 36 podium positions in the 6 largest marathons in the world wore Vaporflys.


How do these shoes improve performance?

  • Super-thick midsole
    • Absorbs force from contact with the ground, reducing impact on feet and leg muscles
  • New midsole foam material
    • This sophisticated foam compresses at impact then expands, releasing energy into the ground to propel forwards
  • Carbon fibre plate
    • Its curved shape means that when striking the ground in the rear of the shoe, it rolls forward, reducing the energy demand of the calves to propel the runner

The competitive advantage of these shoes is akin to the full-body swim suits of 2008 and 2009. To level the playing field, World Athletics (formerly the IAAF) placed a limit on midsole stack height, and stopped athletes racing in yet-to-be released prototype shoes.


What does this mean for the consumer?

Restricting prototypes means the performance benefits of running shoes are commercially accessible for recreational runners. And other brands are playing catch-up and releasing their own versions of performance running shoes. But does this mean you should purchase a performance running shoe?

The market is cluttered and it can be confusing to wrap your head around the nuances of shoe features. Some difficulties encountered recently:

  • Different brands have different names for essentially the same feature
  • Some shoes come in different toe-box widths
  • Some shoes have in-built arch support, while others don’t
  • Different shoes are preferable for different types of running sessions

Let’s be clear. Just because the Nike Vaporflys confer a competitive advantage in elite marathon runners, does NOT mean it will offer the same benefit to your run times. They may not suit every running style. They may not accommodate orthotics. They may not be as versatile as you want them to be (e.g. for gym sessions).

These factors add confusion to an already muddled landscape. To help simplify the process, there are a couple of key factors to consider when buying a shoe.

  • Be clear on your use for the shoe
    • Distance running
    • Sports training
    • Gym training
    • Walking
    • A combination
  • Nothing is more important than comfort
  • Consult our podiatrist for tailored advice
    • Especially if you have an injury history, or orthotics, podiatrists have unrivalled expertise in this area and can help make important recommendations for shoe prescription