The State of the Running Shoe

TSC (Half) Marathon Amsterdam

What running shoe innovations will we see in 2017? And is your old pair of shoes ready for another year of running?

Hibernation is over

Last week, I suddenly woke up from hibernation and decided to go out for a run. According to Strava, my latest round was exactly six months ago. Ouch..

I could have been in a better shape, but what about my running shoes? How are they keeping up after a lonely winter? Last week, I took them from the balcony. Hi there, silverfish. Beneath the insole, there is still sand from a trail run, but the pair looks good from the outside. Luckily, they have lost much of their neon purpleness after one season.

However, how are they really doing?

Lifetime of the running shoe

We measure the life of a pair of running shoes in miles. Your pair of shoes will die between 600 and 800 miles. If you are conscientiously doing your 12 miles a week, your shoes will last for about a year.

Nonetheless, the condition of your running shoes also depends on the training surface, your weight and your pronation. If you wish to be entirely sure about the state of your shoes, some running stores offer a free check up.

I bought my pair of running shoes in April 2016, and I ran about 300 miles in 2016. The pair is a little bit wore off on the heels, and the sole is somewhat thinner beneath the ball of my foot. Apparently, that is a typical wear pattern, because most people have a heel strike: first, they land on their heels, then their feet rolls inward towards their mid-foot. At the end of the gait cycle, you push off from the front of the foot.

To compensate for the loss of cushioning, I could buy a new insole. On this – not so sexy – website called Podobrace you can buy soles for every pronation type.

How to take care of your running shoes?

Rainwater and puddles consist acids. That is why you should rinse your running shoes with tap water after a run in the rain. Use an old dish brush to clean off the mud. Next, take out the insole and stuff the shoes with newspapers to let them dry. Never dry your shoes on a heater, because it will dry up the soles. Needlessly to say, grand your shoes some fresh air; don’t leave them in your gym bag.

TCS Marathon Amsterdam, October 2016.

State of the Art running shoes

Do you remember the discussion around barefoot running? This running technique was believed to be more natural and less of a burden to your muscles and joints. Off course, real barefoot running would cause injuries. Therefore you could buy special shoes for it, without much heel cushion and with separate toes.

I think barefoot running never had its big break, but I predict that we are going to see more of the following shoe types:

Running shoes that make you run faster

Nike is working on a shoe – the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite – that hopefully will help professional marathon runners to run the 26,2 miles within two hours. The world record for the marathon at this moment is 2:02:57 (Dennis Kimetto in Berlin). The project is called Nike Breaking2.

The midsole of the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite is made out of ultralight foam and unidirectional carbon fiber. This material is called ZoomX, and Nike claims it to be lighter, softer and more responsive than traditional foams.

Nike Zoom Vaporfly (Photo by Wired)

Surely Nike is using the innovation for a commercial shoe too: Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. This shoe contains the same lightweight ZoomX midsole as the Elite model. The four percent points at the four percent efficiency the athletes gained from the new shoes during their training with Nike Zoom Vaporfly.

I am very curious is this new shoe is going to make us amateurs run faster. Ed Caesar might provide the answer. The writer of the book ‘Two Hours’ is going to run a half marathon (13,1 miles) in 90 minutes (his PR is 1:36:49), using the same strict training regime as the official Breaking2 runners while critically reporting on the Breaking2 project. Follow his adventures on the website of Wired.

Trail/road hybrids

I guess my next pair of running shoes will be the so-called Trail/Road hybrids, because I love to run trails, but my regular training will be in the city. Trail running asks for a somewhat different pair of running shoes, depending on the trail’s surface and weather conditions. In cold weather, you might like to prevent your feet from getting soaked with GoreTex. However, a shoe with a mesh upper offers better ventilation when your feet become sweaty.

Northface Litewave TR (Photo by Northface)

Most trail run shoes protect your feet from sharp rocks, with a rock plate in the sole and a protective toe bumper. They have a lower heel drop than road runners because trail running asks for a midfoot/forefoot strike instead of a heel strike. Further, to prevent rocks and sand from ending up in your shoes, it is always a good idea to buy gaiters.

And what about you?

What is your goal for 2017? Are you training for a trail run, a (half-) marathon, or your own PR?