It’s All About the Shoe

There has been quite a lot of debate lately over whether or not the running shoe you wear can give a performance advantage over another brand of shoes. Can one sneaker really make you faster and give you an edge? 

For instance, within the last three years, the Nike Vaporfly 4% has claimed to have a greater energy return than any other sneaker on the market, and it was designed specifically to break the 2-hour marathon. 

Many elite runners who have either won the most prestigious marathons in the world—NYC, Boston, London—or have run their personal fastest times in a marathon have been wearing the Vaporfly shoes. But for the average runner, is there any truth to simply changing your sneaker choice and gaining a speedier advantage? Here is my personal experience.

I admit I was intrigued by the hype over the Vaporfly, and when Nike put this technology into more affordable shoes, the Pegasus Turbo and the Zoom Vomero, I was excited to try it. However, Nike is known to run narrow and I needed a wide toe box, so I couldn’t get on the Nike bandwagon. Still determined to test out a lighter shoe than my Brooks Glycerins and have an alternate lower-mileage sneaker that would possibly make me faster, I was led to the Saucony Kinvara 10s by an enthusiastic sales rep at my local running store. 

The first thing that struck me was how insanely light they felt when I lifted them out of the box. The 6.5-oz. shoe compared to my Glycerin 9.3-oz shoe had quite a noticeable difference. I was also pleased to see that the Kinvara had a good amount of cushioning around the heel cup and a roomy toe box. I was sold. Of course, the real test was yet to come.

After a 5-mile run, they felt amazing! Simply put, I felt an immediate high-energy return, light and quick feet, and a supportive ride. And since the Kinvara and the Glycerin are both neutral running shoes with good cushioning, my feet were not in shock nor was there any severe change in my running gait. But the million-dollar question remains—did a different running sneaker improve my speed? 

The answer is yes, but it could’ve also been the increase of focused strength training or hillier running routes. The fact is, as soon as I started alternating between my Glycerin and the Kinvara sneakers, I started clocking faster times. I have felt lighter charging up hills and have more energy to push the pace during my later miles on a run. 

Can one running shoe really have an advantage over another? Does the technology in the makeup of the shoe create a difference, or is it the runner doing the work? Consider for a moment Abebe Bikila, who won the 1960 Olympic Marathon in Rome—barefoot. Clearly, the other runners found no advantage in a specific sneaker. 

I would like to believe my new, faster times are a direct result of the hard work and focused training I have kept up. But if a shoe change has given me my newfound speed advantage, then I’ll take that to the finish line! 

Happy running!

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