Welcome to our first Shoe Review! This week we are going to talk about the latest shoe technology so that you can see the pros and cons of different shoes from both a physio and running shoe perspective.
A huge topic in the running world right now is Carbon Fibre Plates and the claims shoe companies are making based on their research in order to enhance performance in distance running and racing. Nike has used their Carbon Fibre technology to break the 2-hour marathon world record this year leading to controversy in the sporting world over the shoe’s potential to enhance performance. Hoka also used their shoe to attempt to break the 100 mile Ultra Record, missing this goal, but still breaking the 50 km record.
Carbon Fibre is a material that is extremely strong (more than 5x stronger than steel) but also super lightweight. The purpose of a Carbon Fibre Plate in the newest running shoes is to increase propulsion by keeping the runner closer to their forefoot in order to increase the speed of each stride.
When track athletes run (usually in spikes) they are on their forefoot and toes. This may be one of the factors that shoe companies are exploring as it can be biomechanically advantageous to propagate increased forefoot action in distance running.
Another crucial aspect of these shoes is the responsive foam. The foam is engineered to maximize performance by delivering greater energy return with each stride. New foam technology is light-weight and is designed to return to its original shape quickly following deformation with a given stride.
Today we are going to compare two of the newest Carbon Fibre Shoes – The Hoka Carbon X and the Nike Vaporfly Next % – on the market and also to talk about the pro’s and con’s of this type of shoe depending on the individual.
1. The Nike Vaporfly Next %:
Shoe Specs: 9 mm drop, Nike ZoomX Foam Technology, Cushion
The Gist: Nike claims this shoe is the “fastest shoe [they] have ever made” (for now.. the Alpha Fly is coming soon!) and that it is designed to get you to the finish line first. However – one shoe is not always suitable for all runners.
Factors to Consider: These shoes are very narrow and the foam is not meant to last a long time. They have a lifespan of only 250-300 km, however Nike has created other complimentary shoes that are intended for training, while the Next % is intended for racing.
2. The Hoka Carbon X
Shoe Specs: 5 mm drop, Profly X Foam Technology, Neutral and Cushion
The Gist: Hoka claims that the Carbon X is designed to “empower athletes to fly”. It is designed as a high performance shoe that provides a “propulsive ride”.
Factors to Consider: The Profly X foam is designed to last longer relative to the Vaporfly, with a lifespan closer to 500-700 km. The Carbon fibre plate in this shoe runs the full length but forks into two parts at the forefoot. This shoe is built wider which may be more comfortable for some individuals.
There has been controversy as to whether the next generation of Nike Next %’s – the Alpha Fly – will be banned due to their potential performance enhancing capacity. After undergoing stipulation and the amendment of some technical aspects of the shoe, the Nike Alpha Fly WILL be permitted in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games – and you will be able to find them at BlackToe Running!
Nike and Hoka are not the only companies who are hot on the Carbon Fibre trail. Many other brands are coming out with their own version of these shoes including Adidas, Brooks, and Saucony.
While there is loads of hype around these shoes, the fact is that while they may help some people improve their running economy, not all runners will have the same outcome as Jim Walmsley or Eliud Kipchoge. Runners often get injured due to making changes that their bodies were not prepared to handle, whether its ramping up mileage or speed too quickly or switching footwear. We see this every day in the clinic. Being able to run in shoes like this require strong and sound lower chain body mechanics, which can be achievable with proper training, a good coaching plan, and a smart physio in your corner.
Run Smart and you’ll run Stronger for Longer.