When purchasing new running shoes, we often find ourselves checking out the weight of the shoe, but do you actually know why? What difference does the weight of your new running shoes really make? In actual fact, the shoes’ weight contributes to many aspects of your running performance, including (most importantly) your speed. Let’s find out more.
Scientists and athletes at the University of Colorado Boulder conducted an experiment to discover whether the weight of running shoes really makes much of a difference when it comes to the performance and speed of an athlete.
The participants in the study were given no indication of what the experiment was trying to prove, and only knew that they were to perform three 3k time trials which each took place with a week in between each other.
The athletes involved even had the shoes put on and taken off for them, so as not to give the aim of the game away. During each trial, the runners wore shoes of different weights, with an 100g difference between them.
At the end of the experiment, they were able to prove that the athletes all in fact ran faster when they were wearing lighter shoes. In more detail, the athletes ran 1% slower for every extra 100 grams that were added into the shoe.
It was proven that wearing a pair of running shoes that is 100 grams less that the average shoe, could possibly improve a performance time by 57 seconds.
Although 1% seems like a fairly insignificant statistic, a researcher from Nike calculated that by removing an extra 4 oz. from a running shoe could improve a runner’s marathon time by a significant 3 minutes.
According to the research above, we can conclude that yes, a running shoe that is lighter is indeed faster. But there are some considerations that are important to focus on.
We know that a lighter running shoe will help athletes run faster in a race, but is there such a thing as being too light? The answer is yes, lighter isn’t always faster. In Where a shoe is too light, it likely is much lower in weight due to having an insufficient amount of material or cushioning underfoot.
When this is the case, the runner will experience less shock absorption than they should when each foot strikes the ground. Less shock absorption leads to a lower return of energy which results in the athlete using more energy to run at the same speed.
Although they will start at the same speed no matter the shoe weight, if they are running a long distance, their performance will be much less efficient and will diminish over the course of the run due to using more energy.
Although we’ve said that in some cases cushioning can add extra or unnecessary weight (and is often taken out for a lighter result), cushioning doesn’t always have to make a shoe heavier. There are actually plenty of running shoes that balance cushioning and weight to ensure your feet are always protected and still performing at their optimum.
When the shoe has the right amount of cushioning whilst still remaining light in weight, then shock absorption will be far better and less energy will be used over time.
There isn’t really such a thing as the ‘perfect’ running shoe, as one size doesn’t fit all, i.e. your perfect shoe won’t be perfect for another athlete. However, the ‘perfect’ running shoe does have certain traits. What you want is a shoe that provides the ideal amount of energy return without weighing more or less than is required.
The best way to see what type of shoe is right for you is to test out several options. You can do so is the majority of running stores, and the store clerk should be able to assist you and help you determine the right shoe and fit.
However, you need to ensure that when you run in your shoe, it doesn’t feel too thin that you can feel the effects of your feet hitting the ground. On the contrary, the shoes shouldn’t feel heavy or hard work to move either.
It’s not the easiest or quickest task finding your ideal running shoe, but perseverance will ensure you getting the right shoe to help you perform at your very best every time.
Once you’ve found your suitable shoes, it will be a good idea to train in them at least once per week so that your muscles can get used to their feel and flow, and so that you can get used to your running style with them.