December 23

World Athletics Had To Act Against The High-Tech Shoes

World Athletics Had To Act Against The High-Tech Shoes

Eliud Kipchoge, a Kenyan runner, became the first to complete a marathon in less than two hours last year. The achievement, though not an official world record, led to criticisms of Kipchoge’s shoes, which are an advanced Nike Vaporfly design. This was a further indication that the Vaporfly design was transforming the trainer into an unjust form of performance enhancement.

In a recent decision by World Athletics, running’s governing body has banned Kipchoge from competing in his Vaporflys. Other versions of the shoes are still legal, however. New rules set a maximum sole thickness, and limit the number of carbon plates inside that can use to manage runners energy. Any new shoe design must be available for purchase within four months to be eligible to compete.

These amendments can be argue to be a balance and pragmatic approach, which addresses some of new technology’s problems for competitive sport. All world records in running will be preserve, but there is a clearer line to follow before footwear design moves forward.

This outcome can still be critic, as Nike’s rivals have until spring to react to the Vaporfly design. Otherwise their shoes won’t be legal for the Tokyo Olympic & Paralympic Games. It will still likely impact the sport at both amateur and professional levels.

Competitive Advantage For World Runners

The Vaporfly’s technology can be a competitive advantage for runners, as we know. In 2017, a study showed that these shoes are 4% more efficient than many of their rivals. However, any new technology in sports should not limit the accessibility and fairness of the sport. In 2015, a review suggested that the use of sports technology may be inappropriate if it is not available, affordable, or safe to use.

Similar issues have been encountered in other sports. The world of athletics was divided in 2009 over whether Paralympian Oscar Pistorius should (and could) compete against able-bodied athletes. It was argued that his prostheses would enhance performance. He eventually participated in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Similar to the case of Kipchoge’s Vaporflys, full-body and specially textured swimming suits quickly rewrote swimming’s world records. Their adoption was challenge and ultimately outlawed. Like Kipchoge’s Vaporflys, athletes who couldn’t obtain the swimsuits were at a competitive disadvantage if their sponsorships or endorsements included brands that didn’t make the equipment.

There are also other concerns. Other concerns include the fear of being left behind and athletes may feel force to use new technology, regardless of whether it is best for them. The same goes for a sport that allows new technology to use. Because it was easier to control the ball and create spin, the spaghetti stringing, a unique string pattern found on tennis rackets was eventually ban.

Impact On Amateurs

These ethical issues must be consider when creating competitive rules. They should also be incorporate with scientific measurements in order to create the strongest regulations. While this debate is usually about elite athletes, Nike’s Vaporflys may also have a profound impact on what recreational runners can achieve.

Running shoes have been subject to functional limitations for major competitions. However, these rules won’t apply to amateurs who race or run for fun. If elites are not allow to use the same shoes. It is possible for the gap between professional and amateur runners to narrow.

In this hypothetical scenario, a recreational jogger. Who has had their lower limbs amputated could still use a bionic limb to run. Under current International Paralympic Committee rules, a Paralympian cannot use more than a single spring to race.

The Vaporfly’s proposed benefits will not make recreational donkeys racehorses. It is possible for elite athletes to suddenly lose their competitive edge. If they aren’t able to keep up with Nike’s innovation. Running has gone from being a footrace into an arms race, regardless of what the World Athletics decision is.

December 23

Springy Shoes Soles Won’t Make You Run Much Faster

Springy Shoes Soles Won’t Make You Run Much Faster

Running shoes are a worthwhile investment, according to most runners. However, there has been some debate over whether running shoes can help you run faster. They could allow marathon runners to break that two-hour barrier. This challenge will held in Italy this weekend. Are you able to improve your personal record with newer shoes? If so, could these shoes consider performance enhancing technologies giving runners an unfair advantage?

Shoes With Lighter Soles Are More Comfortable

Running performance can be affect by the weight of your shoes. Running performance is affect by the weight of your shoes. Shoes that are heavier can cause your muscles to use more energy to move your feet. Running shoes have become lighter thanks to advances in materials technology. The average premium running shoe weighs between 250 and 340 grams, while the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite is just 184g.

Why not go barefoot if you don’t care about the shoe weight? Running barefoot takes energy that must be absorb by the feet and legs when the foot touches the ground. Some of this can be alleviate by shoe cushioning. But, cushioning can also increase shoe weight. There is a compromise between cushioning’s benefits and the negative effects of extra weight.

Recent research found that running in shoes weighing 211g each resulted in the same amount of energy called running economy, as running barefoot. Running barefoot on the treadmill that provides the same cushioning and support as shoes, without adding weight, produced a slight (1.6%) increase in running economy. For the best running performance, it is important to have enough cushioning and as little weight as possible.

The Jury Is Out On Springy

Shoe cushioning can help reduce muscular effort at impact. Traditional running shoes are known to lose energy with each step, mainly due to heat. This energy must be replenish through muscular contraction to propel runners into the next step. Cushioned shoes actually increase foot and leg muscle activation during push-off compared to running barefoot. The disadvantage of cushioning at impact could offset by the increase effort require to push off.

Imagine if we could harness the energy from impact to get it back. The latest developments in running shoe design focus on lightweight cushioning materials that act as springs and store energy from foot impacts to aid power pushoff. This could potentially reduce the effort required to absorb impact and push off power, and possibly improve running economy. There are many factors to consider before we can come to a decision.

Only springs can return the energy they absorb when their shoes touch the ground. Springs can’t generate the additional energy required to accelerate or run uphill. This means that muscles still have to work extra hard and we don’t know how springs affect their ability. This could affect your ability to run uphill or downhill, accelerate, slow down, or speed up.

Shoes That Are Stiff But Not Too Stiff Can Help

It is important to consider how your foot moves. When we push off, our toe joints naturally bend. This dissipates some energy from calf muscle contraction. Reduce the amount your toes bend by making your shoes stiffer will help you lose less energy. Running economy can be improve by stiffer soled shoes, but only if it is optimize for each athlete.

Too stiff means that the calf muscles must work too hard in order to generate the forces necessary to rotate the ankle. Too soft, and the benefit is negligible. It is no surprise that Nike shoes are design to allow runners to run marathons in less than two hours. They use carbon fiber insoles which adjust the stiffness for each runner.

The ideal stiffness of a shoe sole depends on many factors, including the runners weight, leg length, and strength. The problem with this design is that the optimal bending stiffness can change with changing factors.

Running at different speeds requires us to change the way we activate our muscles. A simple spring like the carbon fiber blade cannot be change in stiffness to allow for different speeds. Even if we could adjust the stiffness of our shoes as we run, it wouldn’t be enough to reduce the effort required to go uphill or accelerate.

December 23

Run A Sub-2hr Marathon Comes Down To 15 Extraordinary Seconds

Run A Sub-2hr Marathon Comes Down To 15 Extraordinary Seconds

Where were your marathon friends on October 12, 2019? This could be the question we will all ask ourselves in 50 years as we recall the moment when a male runner broke the 2-hour marathon barrier four-minute mile? This weekend is the start of a week-long window for Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathon runner ever, to break the legendary barrier.

Kipchoge will run a pinball-straight 9.6km course along Vienna’s Prater Hauptallee. This time, there will be 4.4 seconds for competition. This is not an official marathon race. Kipchoge will be running in the 1:59 Challenge, a private race sponsored by Ineos UK chemicals company.

Official or not, Kipchoge still must keep moving at a frighteningly fast pace of 2m 52s/km (or 4m 38s/mile) for 42.195km. He will do it. Probably. But let me explain. I used statistical tools to answer the question of official marathon attempts and ran the ruler for more than 50 years worth of world records marathon times for men or women.

Medicine and Science of Sports Marathon

My research published in Medicine and Science of Sports and Exercise found that there was a 10% chance of breaking 2 hours on a given day. We would need to wait until May 2032 to see the moment. My analysis was limit to official International Association of Athletics Federations times. Here, runners must participate in an IAAF sanctioned competition where the course, competitors, timing and many other factors must all conform to strict rules.

Kipchoge knows that this weekend’s attempt is completely unofficial. Kipchoge is no stranger to this type of unique attempt. He has previously tried breaking the sub-2 barrier in May 2017 with another major sponsor at the Monza Formula 1 circuit, Italy.

He ran there, just like in Vienna, with dozens dedicated pacers, whose deliberate attempts to protect Kipchoge against wind resistance made it unofficial. But, the closed track, slick asphalt, high-tech shoes and army pacers didn’t give Kipchoge what he needed. He was just 25 seconds short of the 2-hour mark.

Official Marathon Story

Despite the fact that the attempt was not officially record, the official analysis is very useful in answering our question. Below is a graph that shows the progression of men’s marathon world records over more than 50 year. It is not a straight line. Instead, the progression is gradual and steeper in the beginning, then it becomes more shallow towards the end. The result is that elite marathoners who run faster will take longer to improve.

I used statistical tools to fit prediction curves (in the red) to the progression. These curves indicate the likelihood of a given time being run. They take into account both the average performance improvement and randomness of other factors

Zooming in on the graph to the right, we see that Kipchoge holds the current official world record for 2h 1m 39s. This was set in Berlin on September 16, 2018. It is on the 1-in-4 line. This would indicate that we would have expected to witness a time similar to this on the date in history with a chance of around 1 in 4.

So, while Kipchoge’s incredible effort is not negated, his Berlin world record did not significantly differ from historical trends. His Monza run of May 2017 was, however, completely different. Kipchoge’s 2h 0m 25s time would have been acceptable if it had been run in an official event. This would have given him a chance of just 1 in 23 chances, or 4%. This is a strong indicator of the enormous performance gains that these moonshots privately sponsored attempts can provide.

He Will Do It In Vienna, Then?

This analysis will allow us to have a great go at predicting the Vienna moment this weekend. Let’s suppose Kipchoge and the team achieve an equal performance to Monza 2017. We would expect a slight improvement in time given the official progression. The figure shows that Kipchoge is expected to run 2h0m 14s if we take forward the 1-in 23 prediction curve between May 6, 2017 and October 12, 2019.

Kipchoge can gain 11s by simply waiting for 2.5 years. It’s not free, but it does come at the cost of hard work, research, adaptations to training, equipment upgrades, etc. However, theoretically we expect these improvements to occur in time, as long as everyone is doing their job and pursuing the goals. The remaining 15 seconds are extraordinary.