Will Heavy Running Shoes Slow Me Down?
A well-pondered subject while on a run with friends or sipping coffee post run is, will lighter shoes help me run faster? We decided to throw some science at the subject!
A study carried out by Wouter Hoogkamer and published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise measured runners' efficiency while adding weight to their footwear. Efficiency, in this case, means the amount of oxygen the runners consumed. The findings were no great surprise: the heavier the shoe, the more oxygen you use.
Thin strips of lead were added to the runners' shoes and they were tested at a set pace. The more lead added, the less efficient they became, in fact, 1% more oxygen was required for every 100 grams added per foot.
So, the inevitable conclusion is to go and buy the lightest pair of shoes on the market, right? You might even think of running barefoot. Well, hold on a minute. The research also discovered that the shoes over barefoot provide a benefit of approximately 3-4% offering these explanations.
1. Runners take longer strides with shoes on, therefore, becoming more efficient and
2. The effect of the cushioning in the shoes reduces the energy expended by the leg muscles.
Conclusion, we need shoes, so let's just go and buy a pair of super-lightweight ones, right?
I'm beginning to think there's more to it than that!
We know that heavier shoes slow you down because you burn more energy. But does pace have anything to do with it? Further research suggests that it does.
My brain is really starting to ache now!!!
Studies by Kram et al, tested student runners on a treadmill over a series of 3000m runs at a group average of 7min 40sec per mile. As in the previous test, additional 100g weights were added to each shoe and the findings were very similar. Running economy reduced by 1.1%, however, when the students ran at a time trial group average pace of 5min 40sec per mile, results indicate a reduction in economy of only 0.78%.
So, if the scientists are correct, the effect of shoe weight also depends on how fast you are running. It will have less of an effect if you are clipping along at a very swift speed than it does for those cruising with the masses. That's not good news for most of us.
In truth, you might only be bothered about shoe weight if your shoes seem excessively heavy (no problem, there are plenty of great shoes offering protection and performance at a reasonable weight), or you are looking for a shoe for a specific purpose. Perhaps you might just like to run in lightweight cushioned shoes of course, but you might well be looking for a second pair to run some faster paced training in or indeed, a lighter pair to run races in. Check out or Best shoes for a marathon section here.
Choosing weight over performance is definitely a bit of a balancing act. Go too light and your muscles will expend more energy, go too heavy and your efficiency decreases. Sure, it's a balancing act but don't worry. There should be enough information in our reviews to help you make an informed choice. Good luck!