The Low-Down On The Controversial Running Shoes – The Nike Vaporfly

Controversial Running Shoes

If you haven’t heard about the shoe that’s shaking up the sports industry, it’s the Nike Vaporfly. The Vaporfly’s performance enhancing features came into the spotlight back in 2016, when they saw multiple runners break multiple world records in a short timeframe. Now, more prominent footwear brands are bringing out competing models to the market. So, what makes these shoes so special? Today, we’re giving you the low-down on these controversial running shoes.

Vaporfly’s Are Proven To Improve Running Performance

It has now been proven, through both independent and Nike-sponsored studies, that the features of the Vaporfly shoes can help enhance a runners performance. Simplistically, this is achieved by storing some of the downward impact force of each step and releasing this as the foot pushes off the ground, giving them more forward push with each stride. This increases a runner’s energy efficiency by 4% or more, meaning that they get a competitive edge by running faster for the same energy expenditure.

The Shoe Features

The sole of the Vapofly’s has three elements that work together to enhance performance:

The sole material

Vaporfly’s are made with a new type of foam called Pebax, which is softer, bouncier and lighter than traditional ethylene vinyl-acetate foam. Pebax has an energy efficiency of approximately 87%, compared to the traditional foam, which only returns approximately 65% of the energy you put into it.

The carbon fibre plate

Vaporfly’s also have a carbon-fibre plate running through their sole. Initial reports suggested this plate was acting as a spring, but recent research studies have indicated that its impact in this regard is negligible. Instead the plate gives a stiffness and stability to the shoe that helps the Pebax foam compress and expand quickly, assisting the energy return. Without it, the Pebax foam would be too soft to be effective. It also helps maintain the shape and integrity of the shoe.

The rocker style sole

The sole also has a curvature in both the toe area and behind the heel. This is called a ‘rocker-bottom’, and helps to quickly rock a runner from their heels to their toes as they land and push off again. By assisting propulsion forwards, this sole helps running (and walking) feel more natural, and so less painful, to the affected joints.

Why the controversy?

The controversy has arisen because some say that using footwear to enhance performance in this way can be likened to technological ‘doping’, giving an unfair advantage to the wearers. These shoes are not the first device to raise such concerns, for example swimming had ‘full body fast suits’ that are now banned in the olympics and golf clubs must meet specific size and shape parameters. We don’t know how the international sports governing bodies will respond to this technological change in their official competitions but now these shoes are available to the general public, we expect to see more of them.

Expect to see more of these on the shelves this year

  • You can expect to see more shoes with similar features to the Vaporfly on the shelves this year, as other leading brands create their own versions. These include:
asics and new balance

We use rocker bottom shoes here at The Podiatrist, too!

While this combination of features may be a breakthrough for Nike in the running realm, podiatrists have been using rocker-bottom shoes as part of certain treatments for decades. Rocker soles can be great for people suffering from arthritis and problems that involve restricted and painful movement in the joints of the feet. When wearing rocker bottom shoes, the wearer doesn’t have to work as hard to continue smooth forward momentum, thereby helping to ease the tension on painful, restricted or injured joints.

Need help finding shoes that help you feel comfortable on your feet?

If you want to feel more comfortable and stable on your feet, we can help. Aside from rocker bottoms, we have plenty of shoe solutions and techniques to help you optimise the way you move. It starts with an assessment with one of our experienced podiatrists to understand what is happening with your feet – and the best techniques to help you achieve your goals. 

Book your appointment online here or call us on (07) 4638 3022

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