The aim for runners will always be the same. How can I run faster? It is a simple human desire to improve on the status quo, pushing the boundaries and taking our bodies to the limit. As a result at the end of 2019 we witnessed one of the most incredible running feats when Eliud Kipchoge run a sub 2-hour marathon. Quite frankly he smashed it with a time of 1.59.40. Regardless of the equipment used to help achieve this incredible feat, the fact remains we have opened the door. It is now well within the human capacity to run a sub 2-hour marathon, and with that belief history tells us more will follow. Back in 1954 Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile, within weeks an Australian had also broke the 4 minute mile and by the next year a dozen runners had gone under 4 minutes. It is human nature, breaking down the barrier, building the belief.

The reason, although quite frankly I personally believe we are in the presence of a great athlete, has been guided towards the amazing pair of Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next% trainers that Kipchoge was wearing for the run. He is not the only runner recently to push the elite running boundaries in these new designed trainers, so maybe there is something in the design that is taking us to a new level of running. Technology working with incredible athletes is a brilliant development in the sporting world, look at the England kit developments for the 2003 World Cup, the wonderful work completed by Team Sky in bike development, there are plenty of examples.

The newly developed Nike Vaporfly Next%, as shown above certainly cuts a new image for the recreational runner. They are light as a feather, with a woven mesh top and a quite frankly huge foam base with carbon plate to translate energy back through your foot. Design and technology at its best.

The question is how will it suit the average recreational runner?
My thoughts are, and I am yet to get my hands on a pair to do some trials, and complete video analysis on the treadmill to review the technical side of the trainer (yes there will be a follow up blog once I have a pair to bring you all the video information), that for the elite runner these will be incredible improvement on their performance. Which we are already seeing evidence of, however for the recreational athlete the biggest gains will still come through improvement in your running form or technique.

Look at Kipchoge in full flight while running, there are great technical points that can be observed;

  1. The heel lift is almost to hip height, which for a distant runner is great however something only the elite will be able to maintain.
  2. The foot strike is slightly in-front of the body, perfect to continue momentum forwards, allowing a relaxed style with little bounce as his energy is driving him forwards.
  3. The knee is relaxed and can take the impact of landing with little overloading of the joints or soft tissues matched with good flexibility there is little resistance to the natural forward propulsion of his body.
  4. Kipchoge as part of his training week will complete some technical work to help maintain the good

Now review that against the standard recreational runner, possibly aiming to run the London Marathon. It is likely, not certain however from the runners I have seen very likely;

  1. They will have a lower heel lift secondary to postural changes form sitting habitual postures, it is not your job, which will load the quads (front of the thigh).
  2. Most runners will have a tendency to over-stride, creating a breaking effect on the body however importantly with the Nike Zoom Vaporfly on your foot and the extended heel height you are going to be hitting the ground earlier than expected. Yes you will have a bouncy feel however it is likely to be upwards rather than forwards, exaggerating your current deficiency in your running form rather than improving it.
  3. If you are naturally flexible then you will have little resistance, the chances are though that you will be tight through your main muscles, and if you are running the marathon get to work now on improving your mobility! Unfortunately in this case your body will resist the natural forward momentum as it fights the shoe.
  4. Honestly when was the last time you completed technical training as part of your training week? You probably know you should, or this might be news to you however bringing it into your warm up can have huge benefits to your running form.

I hope that has given you some food for thought before you purchase the latest running trend? As soon as I can lay my hands on a pair then I will head out for a few 5k runs and get on the running machine to analyse the shoe in more detail and the effect on form.

Happy running