Welcome back to the Team RunRun Community’s ongoing footwear series! Coach Miles Bennett-Smith is here once again to dive into a topic that has been buzzing in the running world: SuperShoes. In this latest training tips article, we will explore the question that many runners have been asking: Should I get Super Shoes?
SuperShoes have gained significant attention in recent years, with claims of improved performance and faster race times, especially in the marathon. These high-tech shoes have sparked debate and curiosity among runners of all levels. So, let’s dive in and examine the facts, benefits, and considerations surrounding SuperShoes.
What are SuperShoes?
Before deciding if you should get SuperShoes, let’s first get some definitions. SuperShoes, also known as carbon-plated racing shoes, are a category of running shoes that incorporate advanced technologies to enhance performance. These shoes are characterized by their lightweight construction, responsive cushioning, and a carbon fiber plate embedded within the midsole. The carbon plate is designed to provide increased propulsion, energy return, and a more efficient running stride.
The Science Behind SuperShoes
Extensive research and scientific studies have examined the impact of SuperShoes on running performance and reported significant improvements in running economy and race times when wearing SuperShoes compared to traditional running shoes. In fact, when Nike launched one of the first carbon-plated shoes on the market in 2017 they called it the Zoom Vaporfly 4%, because a University of Colorado research team found that running economy (the oxygen cost of running a given pace) improved by an average of 4 percent in the Nike prototype compared to conventional Nike and Adidas racing flats. The combination of a carbon plate and responsive foam midsoles are believed to contribute to enhanced energy transfer and reduced muscle fatigue, leading to improved efficiency and speed. This can save your calves during long races,
Considerations for Choosing SuperShoes
While SuperShoes have shown promising benefits, it’s important to consider several factors before adopting them as your go-to running shoes:
Purpose and Usage: SuperShoes are primarily designed for racing and high-intensity workouts. For everyday training runs or recovery runs, it is almost always more appropriate to stick with regular training shoes to ensure optimal comfort, support, and durability. Advances in foam technology in particular make for a variety of great daily trainers that are fast and yet not carbon-plated (or quite so expensive and less durable.)
Speed and Running Style: Each runner has a unique running style, and SuperShoes may not suit everyone. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKwzjKhUwpo) It’s crucial to evaluate how your foot strikes the ground, your pronation pattern, and any specific biomechanical considerations. But a critical factor is also a simple one – how fast are you running? For those targeting sub-3 hour marathons, SuperShoes are likely a benefit. But a recent study from 2023 on slightly slower runners, those between 8-10 minutes per mile, found that running economy only improved by less than 1%, and a few runners actually performed worse in SuperShoes than in cushioned alternatives. Consulting with a running specialist or coach can provide valuable insights to determine if SuperShoes align with your individual needs.
Transition and Adaptation: Transitioning to SuperShoes can require an adjustment period, and with the proliferation of shoe brands bringing SuperShoes to the market, each shoe has a unique design and responsiveness so it’s advisable to gradually introduce them into your training regimen. Some users have cited more frequent issues with plantar fasciitis, while others just noted additional strain on their feet, toes, and lower leg that arrived after wearing SuperShoes frequently. This is often a natural result of being able to potentially run faster in workouts. Start with shorter, faster workouts or races to allow your body to adapt to the shoes’ unique characteristics, and remember that rotating between training shoes is a good way to add variety to the training stimulus and potentially find slightly different neuromuscular benefits over time.
Cost and Brand Differentiation: SuperShoes often come with a higher price tag (~$200+) compared to regular running shoes. It’s important to assess your budget and determine if the investment aligns with your running goals and priorities. Watch for new models coming out to potentially reduce the price on older models that might be nearly as good (or even better!) Additionally, remember that in the running category, cost is not necessarily an indication of higher quality or even “faster” shoes. Different brands have worked hard over the last 5 years to catch up to (and in many people’s minds, surpass) the initial Nike SuperShoes that took the market by storm. Adidas, Saucony, On, Puma, New Balance, and nearly every competitor has multiple carbon-plated options, and they are enjoyed by lots of hobby-joggers and professionals alike!
My Final Thoughts
So, should you get SuperShoes? I love SuperShoes! They really do feel amazing for a variety of purposes – long tempo runs, intense workouts on the track, races of almost any distance. But I can’t wear them every day – they are too expensive, too fragile, and frankly I want to save some of their benefits for when I need them most, which is not everyday use. That’s my conclusion – SuperShoes can provide performance benefits, but they are definitely not the right choice for every runner or every run. Consider your goals, your speed, your running style, and your budget when deciding whether to incorporate SuperShoes into your training. And of course remember that the shoes are just one piece of the puzzle, and consistent training, proper form, and injury prevention strategies play crucial roles in achieving your running goals. Hope you enjoyed this article, feel free to find my profile on Team RunRun and stay tuned for the next installment of our footwear series.
Miles is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.