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Nike Says Its $250 Running Shoes Will Make You Run Much Faster (nytimes.com)
278 points by sethbannon 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 294 comments

Articles like this make me want to get a NYTimes sub, excellent reporting on something mundane with enough statistics to make it worth the read.

If we ban shoes now, will we ban other augments in the future? Will this stunt the progression of such human performance augmentations?

We seem to take it very much case by case. Running efficiency augments are controversial. Drugs are verboten. But better bicycles are OK, and football players can wear eyeblack and grip-enhancing gloves.

The closer a sport is to pure human performance, though, the more sensitive we seem to be about it. Perhaps out of a sense of continuity through the ages. Yeah, we train better than Athenian athletes. But we still run the same way with the same air and the same gravity.

I'm not terribly worried about stunting development of augments; it's practically the DoD's charter to develop and productize unfair advantages.

> We seem to take it very much case by case.

The principle is very consistent: You can't do something that gives you an unfair advantage over other competitors. Everything banned basically falls into one of three categories:

- It would be prohibitively expensive for others to adopt the technology. This is why you have weight minimums for bikes, boats, etc.

- Others would have to risk their health to compete. This is why you have bans of performance enhancing drugs, blood doping, etc.

- Others would have to break the law to compete. This is why you have bans on illegal drugs, even if they're not necessarily performance enhancing.

Occasionally things are also banned to preserve comparability to current records or to preserve the aesthetic sense of the sport, but for the most part when something is banned it's for one of the three enumerated reasons.

> It would be prohibitively expensive for others to adopt the technology. This is why you have weight minimums for bikes

Weight minimums for bikes is for safety also, riders started using frames that were so light that a race become more of a gamble if your bike would break or not.

"unfair advantage" is particularly hard to define. We are not born equals, so there are already folks among us who have unfair advantage due to their genes, their upbringing, their social background, etc... I would say the definition is still blur. What if you have a medical condition that impairs you in some ways but make you stronger for doing one type of tasks? Is that unfair?

Genetic advantage is what we're testing for in these running experiments though. It isn't an unfair advantage, it's the whole point.

I like your comment and agree with it. The purpose of such sports, especially the Olympics, is to test for genetic (and, I'll add environmental & epigentic) advantages.

Your thoughts on Caster Semenya's "advantages"?

Events like the Olympics - and athletics as we know it - will lose the public’s attention if the most publicsed events (e.g. men’s 100m) become giant genetics microoptimization pissing contests - but it’s the direction the sports-science industrial complex is heading in anyway; but I hope it will lead to less contested sports becoming more popular.

Genetics will be interesting, but I wonder if we eventually reach a point where it's even beyond that. To use Gattaca as an example, a person with vastly inferior genetics was able to outperform genetically perfect individuals through sheer "human spirit" (the film's term) which manifested as work ethic, drive, will, etc.

I could see a future where we've settled on the perfect genetic template for specific disciplines so we progress on to brain chemistry and/or psychology in order to reproduce the spirit aspect which separates the merely genetically blessed from the world class athletes.

[Gattaca spoiler warnings]

> outperform genetically perfect individuals through sheer "human spirit" (the film's term) which manifested as work ethic, drive, will, etc.

I didn't like Gattaca's message for that reason: it's fallacious to suggest those mental attributes aren't also subject to genetic advantages.

Another issue with the story is that the protagonist has a heart condition, and in the end he got on the spaceship's crew, which meant other people's lives were put at risk if he collapsed due to that heart condition in-transit. Salute the human spirit, but he put others at risk for his own benefit, and that's irresponsible and immoral.

> I could see a future where we've settled on the perfect genetic template for specific disciplines so we progress on to brain chemistry and/or psychology in order to reproduce the spirit aspect which separates the merely genetically blessed from the world class athletes.

Adderall, lol.

It is a question of time until we have Gene doping. It might be happening already.

It's reasonable that amputees with prosthetic legs would be banned from normal competitions because they weren't born with those legs; they were manufactured. But what if it was discovered that people born without an appendix somehow performed better? Would they be banned? It would seem unfair to ban them. But it could lead to competitors surgically removing their organs, which would go against the spirit of the sport. But allowing them to compete might also create a class of appendix-less "mutants" who dominate a sport.

I heard a podcast recently about a wrestler who was born without legs. He was almost unbeatable at the high school level, due in part to (a) his very low center of gravity, (b) the ineffectiveness of many common moves on him, and (c) the fact that he could carry much more upper body muscle into the same weight class.

The other parents in the state were teaming up to try to get him banned for unfair advantage (!)

At that price and 100 mile effective usability, it's hard not to bring up the pay to win argument for these shoes.

I think it's interesting that the Olympics banned certain swimsuits because they were "too good." I dunno how much they cost at the time, but a quick search on Amazon shows these swimsuits are $200-500. That seems a pretty low bar for Olympic quality equipment.


Those suits are so tight that after one (or a few) use they are effectively ruined. So it comes out to hundreds/thousands of dollars per race, not to mention during training.

Another thing to consider is that swimmers internationally compete on the same playing field — any aspiring swimmer can measure their times in direct comparison to the greats. In this way, even a child at his first swim meet is indirectly competing with their idols. I can understand why there is pushback against removing that aspect of the competition.

> That seems a pretty low bar for Olympic quality equipment.

IIRC the issue was either that you can only use them once, or else that they weren't widely available. $500 wouldn't be disqualifying on its own, e.g. a good 8+ shell costs around 40k.

> Others would have to risk their health to compete.

This is pretty tenuous for some things though, like ephedrine, clenbuterol, or blood doping.

Blood doping can clog your blood, also sticking needles deep into veins on a regular basis, gotta have some risks.

Regarding the needles my father had kidney dialysis 3 times a week for about 5 years. He had a shunt [1]. They had to switch arms eventually, but his veins held up pretty well.

In comparison, blood doping isn't done on a regular basis such as 3 times a week. And 3 times a week isn't much for a regular heroin addict (who are know to destroy their veins), either.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunt_(medical)

Swimming had this exact same issue a few years ago with the new full body suits that reduce drag too much. Each sports handles this differently and most decisions seem completely arbitrary with the biggest deciding factor simply being tradition. For example, no one cares that swimmers have always shaved their entire body and/or worn a cap to prevent drag. However the new suits just provided too big of a single jump to not require an immediate response.

One of the weirdest arbitrary decisions is the difference between almost universally banned "blood doping" and almost universally allowed "platelet-rich plasma therapy". You can draw a patient's blood and put it in a centrifuge to separate out the red blood cells from the platelets. Reinjecting the red blood cells is doping while reinjecting the platelets is an acceptable medical treatment.

One point that surprised me about those banned suits is that the drag reduction they provide is largely indirect. Instead, they're buoyant. They make the swimmers float higher in the water leaving less of them in the pool to be dragged on. So for roughly the same reason you can't compete in the freestyle paddling on a surfboard, you can't use those suits.

Apparently they worked by other mechanisms as well, but the floaty aspect alone seems a reasonable justification for the ban.


Your comment reminded me of the 80s movie Running Man. There are no rules, there is only winning.

Which is the antithesis to principles of competing fairly. And in Running Man there were undiscovered rules, but only ones to game the sport which came crashing down resulting in a loss of trust of the institution.

Transparency is key for trust in sport and thus continuality of the larger body.

I thought the only rule was to boost ratings.

When aero gear was introduced to cycling there was quite a bit of turmoil. Not the least of which was the fact that Greg Lemond used it to demolish Laurent Fignon in the last time trail, and jump what seemed to be a comfortable gap and win the Tour. By six seconds. I can still picture Fignon laying on the ground at the finish line, hands clenched in fists wondering where it all went wrong.

There were limits then and there have been limits since. No fairings. How long your helmet can be. I have a vague recollection about them banning inserts in your clothes (no teardrops for your calves, no articulated helmets or dorsal fins).

[edit: and apparently disc brakes were just approved last season]

These days Lemond is watchdogging for electric motors hidden in the bikes. Which is a side effect of trying to fix two other problems. First, PEDs aka doping. Second, paying to win.

The exotic materials some teams could afford resulted in light bikes that other teams couldn’t approach. They set a minimum weight for bikes, which meant you either put heavier equipment on the bike (eg, torque gauges in the rear hub) or you loaded weights into it. Or you hid a flashlight battery and a tiny 20 watt motor in the bottom bracket...

The easiest way to remedy all the cheating with bikes and equipment in cycling would be to PROVIDE official bikes the equipment every single day, and make it rotate randomly. Otherwise, you are always playing catching up to discover the latest tricks they devised.

That would wreck the economics of pro cycling because most of the teams are partly sponsored by bike manufactures. Those manufacturers want to be exclusively associated with particular winning teams for marketing purposes.

So what? We have to be afraid of changing stuff because the current statu quo of pro cycling would be affected? That's a pretty weak argument.

Motorsport is sort of similar where manufacturers build cars and there are independent regulations about the cars that define a class. There are spec racing series confined to single cars with very limited additions (safety) that are more oriented towards the driver in terms of competition (spec miata and spec bmw come to mind), but any international world champion type of sport is probably going to require enough monetary backing that manufacturer and aftermarket sponsorship is required to even afford to compete in the first place.

I don't think you understand how pro cycling works. Unlike other pro sports, cycling teams can't really sell tickets to spectators. Most of the revenue comes from sponsors for marketing purposes. So any change that makes it less effective as an advertising channel is a total non-starter.

> make it rotate randomly

In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6.

“What are you doing?”, asked Minsky.

“I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-Tac-Toe” Sussman replied.

“Why is the net wired randomly?”, asked Minsky.

“I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play”, Sussman said.

Minsky then shut his eyes.

“Why do you close your eyes?”, Sussman asked his teacher.

“So that the room will be empty.”

At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.


Or, in other words, making something random does not make it fair; it is still just as unfair as before, only unpredictably so.

The point is that everyone would be riding identical bikes. The rotation would be to stop the teams optimising around the quirks of a particular bike.

> But better bicycles are OK

UCI has lots of rules around the size, geometry, and weight of equipment that can limit how much better you can make a bike. They even explicitly don't allow new innovations without their prior approval. Manufacturers find ways around the rules but to a large degree better bikes are actually not OK.

@mathgladiator sometimes such rules are aimed at limiting the advantage you can buy with money. Not sure if this is the true motivation here. Or in Formula 1, the restrictions are generally for the safety of the drivers. Anyway, engineering within constraints can still be competitive.

(I don't feel strongly about this personally, just listing some of the counterpoints)

This is strange to me and basically says the engineers are not allowed to compete...

This is similar to the limit imposed on various motorsports. It's not that engineers aren't allowed to compete (they most definitely do, within the limitations imposed by the sport's governing body)--the rules exist to level the playing the field a bit between teams and companies with radically different budgets.

My favorite example of forbidden ingenuity is the "sucker car" (Chapparal 2J) which used a plastic skirt to seal the car to the ground, and pump that sucked the air from underneath the car, producing an insane amount of downforce. It was outlawed of course after blowing away the competition.


There is a legitimate safety concern with active aero systems. If they fail in the middle of turn the car is likely to slide off the track, endangering everyone on the track.

The next equipment we should ban: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tMJ8U-2ZMU

I also liked the Mazda Rotary/Wankel engine that really threw the classification systems at LeMans.

Because the Rotary engines are something in between a 2-stroke and 4-stroke calculating it's displacement in comparison to 4-stroke engines was difficult.

In case of Formula 1 racing rules exists to force more innovation.

For example, the trend of the past few years is to limit engine capacity and reduce fuel consumption. So the rules say your engine must go down from 3 liters to 2.4 liters capacity and now it's your job as an engineer to maintain the same horsepower (of roughly 800 hp) at that lower capacity.

Actually, changing those rules every year puts teams with lower budget at disadvantage: they are basically limited to buying engines from richer teams, because they wouldn't be able to keep up with all those rule changes on their own.

The engineers can compete in engineering competitions. A bicycle race is not one of those.

As another example of equipment that is banned because its technological advancements are deemed to give an unfair advantage, take a look at golf. Equipment manufacturers need to get their products tested & approved by the USGA in order to be allowed in many tournaments. Clubs or balls that fly too far when you hit them do not get the required approval.

In golf this makes sense as it is far easier to replace your clubs than make a new course.

And the USGA actually took away the stomach/gut putter.

it's case-by case, and also sport-by-sport. each sport is governed by their own organization that decides which technical advantages are fair and which aren't.

and it's interesting that you mention better bicycles being okay, because for the most part they aren't. UCI rules state "no technical innovation regarding anything used, worn or carried by any rider or license holder during a competition (bicycles, equipment mounted on them, accessories, helmets, clothing, means of communication, etc.) may be used until approved by the UCI executive bureau."

the full ruleset for what constitutes a race-legal bicycle is here: http://www.uci.ch/mm/Document/News/Rulesandregulation/16/51/...

Since your comment has spawned a lot of responses bringing up examples of how various sports have dealt with equipment innovation, this seems a good place to post this article, "The Boat That Almost Was" [1], about a project to design a better boat for the America's Cup yacht race.

[1] http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/3541/1/Clauser.pdf

Better bicycles are ok? There are all sorts of restrictions for UCI events. Recumbents are immensely faster than upright bikes --- banned. Beam bikes (like trek y-foil) are a bit faster --- banned. There's a lower limit for bike weight. You can't add fairings. You can't add motors or energy storage mechanisms. The stated goal is to maintain the primacy of man over machine and to some extent rider safety. Of course bikes do slowly change over time in ways that are presumably advantageous to their riders, but you aren't allowed to make huge leaps all at once, which makes some sense as it's fine if everyone has the same advantage (but also, pointless and expensive for amateurs).

Grip enhancing gloves are definitely not without controversy.

It's worth it. They run sales all the time, I've been paying $7.50/mo since January for a basic online subscription. There's enough new content every day that you'll never run out of interesting stuff to read.

Just sign up for a free account and watch the promotional e-mails for a sale.

Last I tried I had to immediately cancel on principal since the pricing was deliberately obscured.

Credibility was lost before I could even read the articles.

I concur. They might be a highly respectable news organisation, but their sales team or whoever is coming with their consumer advertising tactics are outright nasty. Deeply discounting the first few periods to let people forget about it and then start to charge X times as much on autopay is pretty much the shadiest tactic that’s still legal.

Oh, it's definitely illegal in the EU.

It's not. Other popular european companies like Vodafone or Sky do the exact same thing. They tell you upfront that it will be X € for 12 months, and Y € starting with the 13th month. Unless you cancel.

I hate this as much as the next guy. However it's clearly stated in advance and if you miss it you haven't paid attention during sign up.

If The New York Times, a 166 year old newspaper with a tradition of fine reporting, can lose all its credibility over that ... I don't even know what to say. You sound like a terrible customer and I'm sure they're happy not to have you?

To be fair they have some shady practices. They were forcing you to call to cancel for example. I am sure this works well for them to act as a deterrent, but it's still shady I think.

Yeah that’s annoying, but going so far as them losing all credibility over that seems extreme.

Maybe crediblity isn’t quite the right word, would you go for losing all good will?

As all brokers say: "Past Performance Is Not Indicative Of Future Results".

And okay, maybe it's not all credibility, but it certainly loose the ability to do business with me.

Just go to nytimes.com, click subscribe, and try figure out what it's actually going to cost? Because I honestly can't figure it out.

I'm sure they prefer having another customer, and would probably try to educate them about principal vs principle.


Sorry, auto correct..

I could also excuse myself as not being a native English speaker :)

But I'll go with the autocorrect excuse in this instance..

Also you can read offline after a refresh. Biggest feature for me

If they would really focus on interesting articles like these I would follow that. But their political bend has just become too pedantic. Of the big paper WSJ is for me the last one readable as I find their slight conservative bend a lot less obnoxious in their tone.

Agreed, I subscribed to NYT since subbing was an option, and read daily for a decade, until they decided to double down on partisan politics (I presume as a business decision over quality) since the last US election. The switch was very noticeable if you were paying attention. Maybe coinciding around the time the new Arthur took over as lead...

I too switched to WSJ and don't mind paying the extra cost. I miss the days when NYT feigned neutrality and focused on the balanced reality of stories over fermenting outrage via opinion pieces packaged as breaking news.

You can still find the good NYT content as the pop up on content filters like HN, Twitter, and Pocket without having to put blinders on to ignore half the other content on the site.

I'd love to get a NYT sub but they operate like SiriusXM when it comes to cancellations. You have to talk to a human, during business hours, and you have to fight with them for 15 minutes to get cancelled (meanwhile they offer you continually cheaper rates to stay on, so if you pay rack rates you're clearly overpaying in the first place).

If they offered a way to self-manage a subscription that I could cancel at any time (e.g. Netflix) and a fixed rate so I knew I wasn't overpaying. I'd love to sub.

If you are in California, then there is a new law effective July 1, 2018 that says they must let you cancel online:


In this article, it specifically mentions how difficult it is to cancel a NYT subscription.

This was how they lost my business forever a few years ago. I had to tighten spending for a bit so I called to cancel, thinking I'd be able to renew in a few months. The experience was horrible.

Is such a cancellation model common in the US? I didn't think anyone does that anymore, except maybe porn sites. Its a really cheap sales tactic and would probably dissuade me from subscribing in the first place.

My cable provider requires calling in to downgrade services, but adding them can be done with just a click online! I've also seen it occasionally for services like eMeals.

Same with my security provider, SimpleSafe. Gotta call during business hours to cancel for "security reasons", but you can resubscribe or add new features online. The only secure part of canceling via phone is you give a security code... And that code is shown if you log in online.

Exactly, the business feels dishonest.

How is that a good start for a newspaper?

I recently cancelled via online chat. Only took 5 minutes.

But why should it take longer than 2 messages? Why chat at all?

Why not talk a bit and make a new friend?

Can't you just quickly dispute the charges online with your CC provider until the company accepts your cancellation?

You can do that too, but I still think you should tell others that it's difficult to cancel. That's the important part. :)

The problem is that they obscure prices, try to avoid cancellation..

Scammy tactics is dishonest, and that's not a good start for a news source. (I have problems finding a gym, because I prefer to do honest business - without obscure pricing)

If you subscribe in the mobile app, you can self-manage the subscription through iTunes just like any other app.

If you like this, you (and many others here) may also enjoy this great visual breakdown of how the American economy has changed since the recession in 2008:


P.S. I am also a happy NYT subscriber. +1 for supporting high-quality journalism!

Post-college (late 80's) I was faithful subscriber to the NYT. Over time the quality and quantity drifted down. Eventually, I put my confirmation bias aside and took my attention elsewhere. It's rare I regret it.

i think at a competitive level we have already crossed this threshold, as we have barred j-blade runners from competing against full-legged humans at the highest level.

i think it's totally justified, but i don't think it will have any effect on the advancement of prosthetics, which pave the way to performance augmentations.

I bought a NYT sub with Sunday delivery for $20 a month, worth the price. Lots of great in depth investigations and articles.

The aggressive opinion on regulating these shoes seems over the top to me, the next best shoes, the relatively unheralded Nike Streak, provided a 3% performance improvement, and more runners achieved a personal best with those shoes. And improvements with the vapor fly 4% were smaller for faster runners. Also many runners choose shoes based on injury prevention and comfort - if a shoe gets you to the starting line uninjured with plenty of training miles that's an infinite time improvement over pulling out of the race injured.

Wired did a good analysis on this too https://www.wired.com/story/do-nike-zoom-vaporfly-make-you-r...

If it were just "the shoes make you faster" there would be nothing to discuss. The debate centers around a qualitative difference: "The shoes have a 'spring' in them that make you faster."

It's similar to a mini version of prosthetics such as Pistorius's that were banned from Olympic competition, as they are basically big metal springs on the end of your legs. The Vaporfly was explicitly designed to use this spring principle, i.e. store mechanical energy in a carbon fiber plate and release it back on toe-off.

So some, like me, feel that shoes for competition should not be allowed to mechanically assist the runner. It's not about percentages, it's a simple binary criterion.

If you think the plate is such a qualitative difference you may have fallen for Nike's marketing. The vapor fly 4% is very lightweight with an excellent cushioning to weight ratio thanks partly to Nike's new zoomx foam (which possibly provides superior energy return too). Shoes with plates in them have been around for a while and nobody complained - Mizuno shoes have plates like this as does the Nike zoom fly (different shoe), neither shoe is very high on the list or higher than you would expect based on its weight alone.

Look at the top shoes on the list - the Nike streak is a super lightweight shoe without Nike's new foam and it is second fastest. This should tell you weight alone is probably the most important factor. Two other highly rated shoes are Adidas shoes with boost foam, a type of foam similar to Nike's zoomx with a better cushioning to weight ratio. So the newest generation of foam probably provides a small benefit apart from the she's weight alone.

Runners capable of running a three hour marathon probably know the single most important factor in a running shoe for speed is weight. If they still choose to run in Saucony Guide or Hokas there's probably a good reason. What percent of runners who switched to the Saucony Guide were injured and used the shoes to recover, and what percent of runners in heavier shoes with more cushioning and stability features made it to the Starting line vs runners in Nike streaks? It's possible the heavier shoes provide protection from injury or greater comfort - there's a reason runners don't race marathons in track spikes.

I don't think the plate provides much benefit apart from weight and cushioning, my guess is that it is there for the feel of the shoe and without it the new foam would feel too mushy.

The point isn't whether I think it works in providing mechanical assistance. The point is whether it is intended to provide mechanical assistance, which as you mention from Nike's marketing, seems to be yes.

Try this: http://sportsscientists.com/2017/03/ban-nike-vaporfly-carbon...

By the way, it doesn't really bother me if 3-hour marathoners want to wear them, or even 2:30 marathoners, but if you're competing for prize money, I think this sort of thing should be banned. At least the sport needs a discussion of where to draw the line on such devices.

So if a faster shoe came along (Vapor Fly 5%) that didn’t use a plate, that would be okay? But if people preferred the Vapor Fly 4% over the faster shoe, they couldn’t use it because of the plate? . . .

The patent application Ross Tucker cites has close to zero applicability. Nike has been working on a different energy return “spring” shoe that probably would be illegal - the patent could be for those shoes. And people claim lots of things in patents, that doesn’t make the claims true. All shoes have some combination of firmness and cushioning, and shoes have used an embedded firm plate design before, and nobody complained.

What if a biomechanics lab proved the Vapor Fly 4% is not acting as a spring but makes runners more efficient through some other mechanism (firm underfoot feeling but lots of cushioning)?

> So if a faster shoe came along (Vapor Fly 5%) that didn’t use a plate, that would be okay?

Right, according to my logic, it would be fine if there was a shoe that was faster empirically but not designed to cheat. (In other words, cheating is still cheating even if you're bad at it.)

Analogy: if a silver medalist is on EPO and the gold medalist isn't, the silver medalist is still cheating and the gold medalist still is not.

Your second paragraph does not match my understanding of the issue. I believe the Vaporfly is the shoe with the embedded carbon fiber plate, and I don't think other shoes (except maybe spikes) with this technology have ever been worn, at least in top level races.

Even regular foam soles have at least a little bit of springiness.

I was just discussing this with a runner who uses Hokas. She said she thinks she gets a similar slingshot-like effect with them, maybe not as drastic but it's there.

Being 3 or 4% more efficient on race day is a HUGE advantage. Maybe not every elite runner wants to have to wear these shoes to compete?

In cycling people are risking lifetime bans to get a 5 or 8% power advantage. Which is doubly amazing because speed goes up with the square root of power due to drag. I’d wager that 3% for a runner is a bigger deal than 6% for a cyclist.

Drag doesn't matter as much at higher levels of cycling, because teams will draft off one another to save energy.

Not in the breakaways, which is where races are won.

or time trials or climbing

Shaved legs provide a small advantage in the Tour de France.

Then they will have to find shoes which are competitive, doesn't seem that crazy to me. It'd be great if footraces continued to advance consumer shoes like stock car racing advances consumer vehicles.

Not a very good example, stock cars are effectively ancient in many ways compared to modern cars. For example they only started playing with (indirect) fuel injection a few years ago.

Aren't stock cars literally by definition modern cars? They're cars currently available in the stock of consumer retailers. That's the whole point of the game isn't it?

Stock car racing's history traces to Prohibition era moonshiners. They had to upgrade their cars to get away from authorities but had to do so without raising suspicion. NASCAR races can be in excess of 200 miles per hour when race track conditions allow it which only extremely high end sportscars can do (NASCAR engines are up to 900 horsepower).

By definition, they are cars that look like they're consumer cars but inside they're made to be powerful racing vehicles.

some time ago stock car racing was just that, but these days the types of cars manufacturers run in stock car racing are purpose built race machines that have only a passing superficial relationship to what you can find at a dealer.

>Compared with typical training shoes, the Vaporflys are believed to wear out quickly: Some runners have said they lose their effectiveness after 100 miles or so.

This is about two weeks of peak marathon training, although if the shoes are as advantageous as the article claims that's impressive in any case. I suppose one could reserve them for races and train with cheaper shoes.

The idea is that you don't train in them, you save them for the race.

(My last marathon training period peaked at a little over 70mpw. Normal trainers last me about 500-600 miles, my lighter shoes (Kinvaras) last 400-500, and my race flats even less than that)

You don't use your race as an occasion to test your running shoes.

With these you do. Maybe do a 3 mile tune-up run to make sure there are not hot spots and it fits well, then you go race in it. Can't spend 50 miles breaking in a shoe with a life of 100 miles.

Maybe not a particular pair, but you have to have experience with any types of shoes. I would frequently buy two pairs, one I would normally train in and the other will be reserved for events. Even the pair reserved for event I would typically test run (hahaha!) at least once during training to spot any problems.

Now, this is pure conjecture, I don't think the shoes magically make you more efficient. Efficiency is something you learn when running over long period of time. I would expect, to reap benefits of these shoes (assuming there are) you would need to get used to the new mechanics of running that the shoes will require.

A carbon fiber spring isn't magic, it's mechanical engineering. Your foot has a natural spring built into it. This is just slightly more efficient.

I'd do something more like 13-15 miles.

I could see using them in a couple of marathon-pace training runs, but definitely not the whole training

>I suppose one could reserve them for races and train with cheaper shoes.

That's what I would do. You'd have a slight boost on top of the usual race day boost and $250 to get ~4 marathons/8 half marathons isn't bad. I mean that would probably be 4+ years for a lot of non-serious runners.

Meh, a 4% off a crappy marathon time is still a crappy time.

I would save your money.

People train months (and years) to take minutes off their time, especially as their times get lower and the returns diminish.

4% of 3 hours is more than 7 minutes! That could be equivalent to tens of hours on the road. $250 is a _great_ investment at that rate.

This is the "Why go to that expensive restaurant?" argument all over again. When it's your hobby, and it's important to you, the thought process behind the purchase is very different.

I have to say, running is a little more than a hobby to me, (obsession perhaps?). So I understand how runners think about running, and the gear they purchase for running.

There's literally NO WAY I'd buy a pair of shoes I can run in for 100 miles for $250. I wouldn't be able to NOT think about every mile just costing me $2.50.

Call me frugal, but that's two pairs of any other shoe, and I can run in those for most of the summer.

A $250 pair of shoe is nothing but a luxury item for an extremely simple pastime. It's absolutely marketed to make you first feel inferior, then offer a solution. You always lose out when you fall for marketing.

Even with these shoes (provided these shoes do what they say they do), there are literally hundreds of thousands of people who can run faster than me, even if they all wear flip flops. I would be embarrassed to even consider purchasing shoes that promise to make me faster like these are marketed to do.

> This is the "Why go to that expensive restaurant?" argument all over again.

I mean, I guess so: "expensive" doesn't mean, "best". It just means, "expensive". The food may be good, or people pay because of the exclusivity the price creates. I'm not really about that sort of classicism. I like good tasting food too, but you know what I learned to do?


To be a better a runner, I decided to run. Running taught me a lot about keeping things simple, and to get rid of the b.s.

I think your justification for your opinion is sound, but I think the justification for the other side is sound as well. An elite runner may have only a handful of marathons in a year they really want to trim time off of, and another $250 on top of the many months (and dollars) that go into training for them seems reasonable. Perhaps the best argument for why this plan seems reasonable is that many ordinary people already seem to be doing it.

In software engineering terms, these shoes would be, "premature optimization"

But surely the reason people value a 7 minute reduction so highly is because of what it represents -- a successful effort to get fitter and/or mentally tougher. If you're simply 'buying' that reduction, what is the point, unless you're at the level where other benefits (public glory, sponsorship) are within reach?

I don't run competitively, but in the gym I feel like spending on better shoes takes away a false limit due to inappropriate technology. Unless you are running barefoot, I can see how a runner might feel the slower number is just false due to an arbitrary limitation. There is a decent chance, if you can afford it, that these shoes might help you progress faster as well. In the end it's all about how effectively your effort is translated into movement.

> I don't run competitively, but in the gym I feel like spending on better shoes takes away a false limit due to inappropriate technology.

Explain to me how, in a gym setting there are, "better" shoes that "take away a false limit due to inappropriate technology" What does that mean?

Honestly, I thought the best shoes to use in the gym were just a pair of All Stars. I would use the weight room barefoot, but they yell at me too much.

Are you talking about Oly Shoes? 'cause those just counteract a mobility problem. Kinda better to solve that mobility problem. But thinking that's cutting edge technology is garbage. It's just a raised heal.

I agree, I don't spend more than you do it sounds like - but I do spend on a specific shoe because coming in a pair of cross trainers or running shoes is just counter productive. But the point was completely separate from arguing about what a good gym shoe is.

Totally agreed. Thankfully my gym does let me lift barefoot!

Good point, and I can understand that mindset in some cases. But even though the line between removing an obstacle and gaining artificial assistance is hard to draw sharply, the way these shoes are described makes me think they're clearly in the second category:

> Unlike most running shoes, they have a carbon-fiber plate in the midsole, which stores and releases energy with each stride and is meant to act as a kind of slingshot, or catapult, to propel runners forward.

> Unlike most running shoes, they have a carbon-fiber plate in the midsole, which stores and releases energy with each stride and is meant to act as a kind of slingshot, or catapult, to propel runners forward.

That's like literally every single midsole "technology" companies like Nike try to market their shoes with.

Your foot already has one of those catapult like things - it's called the Achilles. Just let it do it's job.


Most people don’t think like this. They’ll take the quick one time dopamine hit and then stay addicted to the shoes lest they lose the 7%.

For someone who wants to brag on Facebook, though...$250 to save 7 minutes might be worth the bragging rights.

I don’t know 10 minutes off a 4 hour marathon is pretty huge.

But a 3:50 marathon is what a lot of people can do after a few beers, and having a few beers whilst doing. Ask me how I know.

You'd have better return on investment by just going to yourself, "Hey for every 10 miles you run this week, you get a beer!" and using that as a reward for actually following your training plan.

I mean try it out: $250 buys a good few slabs of beer!

And if it doesn't work - well, the beer was delicious.

Throwing technology as something as simple as running shouldn't be the first idea to get better. It should literally be the last. If you're marathon pace is some-a-wheres near 2:25 - then let's talk.

At that pace, good chance someone is buying your shoes for you.

About one week (or even less) for pros or even the most competitive amateurs. However, if you ran for Nike, they'd likely send you plenty of pairs so that's not even an issue.

I'm not surprised --- it's similar to the automotive world too, where racing slicks are not meant to last more than a race or even fraction thereof, made with very soft rubber so the traction is high but so is the wear. These shoes seem like the human equivalent.

What a phenomenal piece of journalism. If anything, I think a piece like this can expose the limits of statistical analysis to the unfamiliar. They made a very thorough analysis of something rather boring, all without making untrue statements about the limitations of each approach. I enjoyed this a lot.

Either that or a brilliant piece of Nike PR masquerading as journalism. Doesn't Nike also sell $400 basketball shoes that make you jump higher?

Having worked for Nike on ads and in the publishing industry (on branded print content), I am very comfortable saying this is 100% an ad. If it weren’t, it simply wouldn’t be run, because that would justify future Nike ad $$$ to competing publications so as to not clump too much branding in one outlet, a tell-tale sign of a deal. It takes a unique very scenario for a pub like NYT to just hand something like this to a company like Nike; nothing about this even moves that needle. I am similarly comfortable asserting the rough draft was written by Nike in-house, simply because their people have this stuff falling out of their heads already. NYT leading this would cost multitudes in efficiency.

Hello extralego,

I'm not certain what this will mean to you, but if it's worth anything: I am very comfortable saying this article was 100% not an ad, because I'm one of the people who created it. The rough draft was written by me.

Your friend, Kevin Q.

I think it would be illegal to run this without disclosing that it's an ad.

I don’t. It’s done all the time regardless.

so idealistic...

I'm not quite sure what I just watched, but ok...

Does he blink?

Screw you, I can't watch it now.

This would have been infinitely better if it was genuine, and not a character. Disappointed.

Whatever happened to the whole "born to run" thing, which surveyed a lot of evidence that running shoes - recent inventions - cause injuries almost universally, that you're better off with totally minimal shoes if not no shoes at all.

Generally found to be untrue. Lots of different running styles and gaits. Runners generally take the "shoe for every stride" approach now rather than a "one style fits all" mindset.

Not to say you're wrong either, but there's been a huge shift in running: trail running is more popular than ever (or just not running on the road - see OCRs), shoes have wider toeboxes, and although minimal shoes seem to have come and gone, a neutral heel drop is pretty normal these days.

Overengineered shoes in general are not as popular: if you look at something like thruhikers on the AT or PCT, a lot of them opt for a wide-toebox, neutral heal drop trail runner over an overly built up and heavy hiking boot. I've seen thruhikers do whole sections in Crocs.

So perhaps "minimal" wasn't the right thing to focus on. But the design of the shoes have def. changed.

Not saying you’re wrong but do you have any evidence to say it’s “Generally found to be untrue”.

The question is more whether the "barefoot is best" meme was ever more than theory/anecdote.


As others have said, people are different. There might well be a subset of runners for whom a barefoot/minimal style is best, but AFAICT it's a minority at best, so "generally found to be untrue" is a pretty good summary.

To be honest that article just says that both techniques are similar in efficiency, which I think no one really disputed.

There is also a claim which I’m not so familiar with which is that bare foot runners think their feet will become more “taught and spring like”, ,not really familiar with that idea.

What I’m interested in, and the article doesn’t discuss is the injury rate between runners who run barefoot and without shoes. I haven’t any studies which say I’m more likely to be injured when going barefoot.

I think the real reason more people wear shoes is that there is seems to be something taboo about going shoeless. As a bare foot runner I feel judged for taking off the shoes and going for a run.

Edit: To the point about people who tried barefoot shoes and were injured, that’s probably because just running without shoes on with the same technique for 10 weeks isn’t an advisable way to run without shoes. It’s quite a different exercise.

> I haven’t any studies which say I’m more likely to be injured when going barefoot.

Can you cite any studies at all on the subject, even showing the converse? It's not clear why the entire burden of proof should be on one side.

> As a bare foot runner I feel judged for taking off the shoes and going for a run.

I've only been running a bit over four years, and I've seen plenty of judging from both sides. Personally, I have something that works for me, even through New England winters when barefoot simply isn't an option. If somebody half my age and half my annual mileage wants to look down their nose at me because I wear pretty standard shoes, all I can do is laugh.

For once, even if it's allowed no top athlete runs barefoot/minimal.

And it's not because of ad dollars - you don't see them wearing hats or gloves just because some company would pay for that.

I can't remember the source (or I'd paste a link here), but the current thinking is that, overall, the best way to choose shoes (for safety & performance) is to pick a pair that's comfortable. That might range from Tarahumara style sandals to Uber-cushioned Hokas to a super-stiff stability shoe. The important thing is to test a bunch and pick what works for you, and not to isolate in a specific sub-category (minimal, zero drop, cushioned, stability, neutral).

If you have running shoes, then sure you have different styles. For instance, you can land on your heels and blow out your knees and hips, whereas without shoes you would never run that way.

People have never believed that being barefoot was faster. Even Bikila (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abebe_Bikila), who ran an Olympic world record while entirely barefoot, was faster in shoes once he got used to them.

The book mostly is against shoes that absorb the energy in the shock, because it makes you less careful when landing and allows you to incorrectly land straight on the heel rather than using the built in suspension of your toes and foot. It's not against shoes universally. These new shoes supposedly store the energy in the landing and gives it back on release. Think of it more as a spring rather than a damper.

> Think of it more as a spring rather than a damper.

...in which case it's definitely illegal under IAAF rules.

BTW, even the dreaded "heel strike" isn't as bad as many seem to think. In the article I cited in another comment here, they actually found that heel striking is more energy-efficient. Other studies I've seen have suggested that heel striking is more often a symptom of another problem than a problem itself. It might or might not be ideal, but among dozens of other mechanical issues people can have - e.g. overstriding, pronation/supination - it's only one part of the picture and IMO is often a distraction from any given runner's real issues.

The two concepts can coexist. We are born to run, but we are also born to dream of figuring out how to make ourselves run better.

We've also been wearing shoes for at least 10,000 years, and have possibly evolved to a degree to wear them.

> It is thought that shoes may have been used long before this, but because the materials used were highly perishable, it is difficult to find evidence of the earliest footwear.[8] By studying the bones of the smaller toes (as opposed to the big toe), it was observed that their thickness decreased approximately 40,000 to 26,000 years ago. This led archaeologists to deduce that wearing shoes resulted in less bone growth, resulting in shorter, thinner toes.[9]


Even the author of that research paper that that book is based on doesn't run marathons barefoot. He said humans aren't meant to run 26.2 miles nonstop barefooted.

Have you heard of persistence hunting? Here's is a short documentary from the BBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=826HMLoiE_o

It is believed to be one of the oldest hunting techniques, and so would indicate that humans are in fact meant to run long distances. According to Wikepedia, the runner runs for "about two to five hours over 25 to 35 km (16 to 22 mi)".

The fact that the rest of humanity didn't bother with persistence hunting may also be a clue that we weren't designed for that either.

Or it's a clue that we figured out that building a trap or using a weapon to kill an animal from greater distance burns a lot less calories.

For sure. And that's the point. Persistence hunting is a strategy developed by a set of humans living in one small area of the world that isn't particularly hospitable to humans. In fact, give how inhospitable the African Savannah is, it is a point against the idea that this is somehow a 'natural' state of being for us. And it makes sense, this kind of long distance running is incredibly energy intensive and injury prone - it's not a great way to make a living.

It is not as clear cut as you say, there appears to be some scientific discussion on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endurance_running_hypothesis

Natural barefoot running doesn't work when americans are unnaturally obese and have been wearing shoes since they were born

If these shoes really can provide a measurable improvement in times they probably should be banned. Otherwise it will go the way of swimming, where a bunch of world records got set before they ended up banning those full body suits.

As a runner I want shoes to get more efficient and better. What is about todays running shoe that makes them acceptable, and that anything better is some form of cheating? I don't agree with what they did in swimming, those body suits where amazing, and that they got banned was really sad. But even if you agree with banning them. Shoes in running are a not comparable to full body swimming suits. Shoes are an central part of running, the swimming suit is not that in swimming. If you ban improvement on something so core to running as the shoes, what is left to innovate on?

Because the sport is better for everyone if you aren't required to buy $250 shoes to have a chance to win. It's the same with the swim suits. If a new piece of equipment comes out that makes you 5% more efficient, then anyone who wants a chance to actually compete needs to buy it. It's just like a tax on competitors.

Otherwise running and swimming would just turn into cycling where you are basically forced to buy an expensive bike to compete.

No one other than a small group of elite athletes is ever expected to win a marathon, it's mainly a race against yourself.

Not when it comes to boston qualifying, or running scholarships.

> Shoes are an central part of running, the swimming suit is not that in swimming

A Speedo vs a Short is a very big difference in swimming. Shaving body hair is a thing males at the high school level are doing.

I wasn't arguing that there isn't significant drag in water, and to be able to win swimming competitions you need to care about that to. But I have a hard time accepting that swimming shorts, is to swimming as shoes are to running.

> But I have a hard time accepting that swimming shorts, is to swimming as shoes are to running.

Oh, it's huge. These new "tech" suits are big and you now see them in competitions for young kids. Some states have banned them for the under-10 groups, other have not.

These things are so ridiculous. They can cost hundreds of dollars, they take 5-10 minutes just to put on, and they wear out after wearing them 10-15 times.

What's the whole point of sports competition in the first place if the thing that makes the difference is a simple layout of $250?

Track spikes for shorter events have included a rigid plate - sometimes made of carbon fiber - for as long as I can remember.

The Vaporfly 4% could simply be viewed as a technology transfer to shoes intended for longer distances.

Running sneakers are a relatively new invention. You wouldn't want to run a marathon in whatever the ancient greeks wore.

If this kind of thing is important, the best approach is to narrowly define what athletes can wear. (Shoes, socks, compression sleeves, clothes, ect.)

Then, working within the limits is part of the sport itself.

> Running sneakers are a relatively new invention.

This is true, humans have been running for thousands of years without them.

> You wouldn't want to run a marathon in whatever the ancient greeks wore.

why not?

> Abebe Bikila (August 7, 1932 – October 25, 1973) was an Ethiopian double Olympic marathon champion. He won the marathon at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome while running barefoot, setting a world record.

He finished in 2:15:16.2

Or take Roger Bannister: [1]

> Sir Roger clocked three minutes 59.4 seconds in the historic race at Iffley Road Track in Oxford on 6 May 1954 when he was a 25-year-old medical student.

> The thin leather running spikes which weigh just four and a half ounces were snapped up by an anonymous buyer at the auction in South Kensington, London.

I don't know about you, but I can't run a 2:15 marathon or a 4 minute mile, and I don't think fancy shoes would make the difference.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/11/roger-bannis...

>why not?

We didn't evolve to run on tarmac or concrete. Public roads are strewn with broken glass and fragments of metal. Regular distance running is punishing on your joints, even if you're a forefoot runner with perfect form.

> Regular distance running is punishing on your joints, even if you're a forefoot runner with perfect form.

The studies I'm aware of (e.g. [1]) point in the opposite direction: runners have a lower risk of osteoarthritis, potentially because they have a lower BMI. As an avid long distance runner myself, if you have any evidence to the contrary, I'd be very interested to read it.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23377837

I did not see the original source, but this secondary source shows that running is the second most injurious sport, right behind football.


I would be skeptical about any claim supported by a Daily Mail link. I couldn't find any references to the study they "cited" on Google Scholar, either.

Okay, but we did evolve to run on dirt and rock, neither of which are particularly soft. Equally important, studies indicate that impact does not decrease when running on softer surfaces. Runner instinctively step harder on soft surfaces and more softer on hard surfaces, to get the same feedback from their feet and legs.

FWIW, four years later he won the Tokyo Olympics marathon wearing Pumas in a new world-record time of 2:12:11.2.

Which just goes to prove the point that it's the person, not the equipment, that determines performance at that level.

How do you know that. How do you know the improvement was not because now he was using shoes.

> I don't know about you, but I can't run a 2:15 marathon or a 4 minute mile, and I don't think fancy shoes would make the difference.

But for those that can, fancy shoes make a massive difference.

When you get to the highest levels of competition in any event, it's almost exclusively the little things that make the biggest difference. This is because the greatest athletes/competitors will have mastered most everything else surrounding their sport/event and the only differences that remain between them lay in the minute details.

Let's say at that level who wins any given race depends mostly on how good indiviuals feel on the day of competition, not some "edge" that can be kept improving on, because they all did all of their homework.

Would that be so bad? I imagine if I had trained so hard for so long, and overcome so much, I would rather accept that I'm in a group of people who "are all so good it's impossible to tell who is the best", than have it decided by who has the bigger R&D department.

It seems very a very different perspective from other sports like Formula1. Nobody would bat an eye if someone created a better engine to win F1 races.

Current engine specifications in Formula 1 are quite strict. If these rules didn't exist, it would be easy for the teams to create more powerful engines than the current 1.6L turbo V6s.

Running on shoes with a carbon fiber plate should be banned, but running on carbon fiber blades† is OK?

It wouldn't be the first time the Olympic Committee has been confusing.


So at what point can we just start using jumping stilts [1] or something similar? I mean the shoes are $250 and the stilts from Amazon [2] are like $50 more when you include shipping.

WRT to carbon fiber plate... how is that not "cheating" like the stilts? Its like electric motors in bicycles if you ask me.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCqvUGFwee4 [2] https://www.amazon.com/Air-Trekkers-JUMPING-EXTREME-Exercise...

IAAF rules already prohibit that:

> (e) Use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device.

Nobody has brought a challenge over this shoe and its debatable use of a "spring"; the IAAF may in fact decide it's a mechanical advantage if/when somebody does

Great comment. Now, how often are officials confiscating shoes and sawing them in half to see what is really inside?

Corked bats? Hidden motors... etc...

Nobody had even a proof of concept for a shoe that looked like a running shoe on the outside but had "springs, wheels" inside, so the officials didn't need to. Compare it with competitive cycling, where for a hundred years officials didn't need to X-ray the bike to check for hidden motors, but now they regularly do [0].

If the Nike shoe is banned from professional competition, athletes will stop wearing it, and officials will investigating other shoes for carbon fibre inserts, and will likely catch some. They're not stupid.


Have there been any cases under this rule about "incorporates springs"?

I mean for things which might vaguely count as running shoes... not oscar pistorius etc.

This is funny to me because there's nothing magical about a metal spring - the sole of every running shoe is a "spring" in that it has a spring force that helps you run.

I don't think the relating running shoes to motors in bikes is a fair comparison. Motors in bicycles add energy to the system; running shoes simply allow a runner to be more efficient.

I would certainly watch more marathons if jumping stilts were allowed.

This reminds me of the powerful arguments that Christopher McDougall presented in his book (Born to Run[1]) around bare-foot running [2]. I've tried running bare-foot and using old-ragged shoes and absolutely love it.

[1]: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6289283-born-to-run

[2]: http://www.chrismcdougall.com/born-to-run/the-barefoot-runni...

Any reason this should be down voted? I read that "born to run" was partly a scam book (can't recall exactly, but the cover was photoshopped for one, and the stories about some runners never getting hurt was just totally false, etc...)

But barefoot running is a great way to run, no knee or back issues after doing this for years.

possibly because these shoes and the article are exactly the opposite of barefoot running?

It still seems like a relevant response if these shoes (long term) are even more detrimental to our bodies the previous designs. He was pointing out that the appeal of these shoes appears to be simply mimicking what the body already does. I took this as a valid criticism of these shoes.

This is especially relevant because there's been decades of shoe manufacturers designing for poor running form.

Surely HN isn't just for commenting on support of a product in a linked story, but also considered criticism?

There's something interesting at play here — clearly, they're selling these shoes to enthusiasts, rather than just targeting elite athletes.

While I can see a competitive athlete reaching for whatever legal means they can to try and buy themselves a victory or podium or some other high-profile result that buys them sponsorships, there's just no good reason why amateur runners should care — you don't magically become a fitter, better runner by posting faster numbers through fancier shoes. Selling people on to the idea that they _should_ care about this is, depending on perspective marketing at either its finest or at its worst.

> there's just no good reason why amateur runners should care

Qualifying for marathons is a good reason to care. If these shoes could make the difference between me qualifying for Boston, and me not qualifying for Boston (or same for NYC, Tokyo, London, etc etc), $250 would be cheap if that's a big goal for me.

edit: really, $130 or so since my shoes _already_ cost $120

It's nothing new in the cycling industry. Lots of recreational cyclists ride high-end race bikes. It's not all that unusual to see an age-group triathlete on a $10,000 TT bike.

If you're enthusiastic about something, I think it's quite natural to want to do it to the best of your ability. It's also quite natural to covet shiny toys. You can't buy youth or good genes, but you can buy a little bit of speed, a little bit of prestige, a little bit of the aura that surrounds professional athletes.

As one who has watched the golf equipment market for some time, I can tell you that many are willing to spend money for incremental improvement rather than spend time to get better through practice.

There's also the psychological aspect of training harder because you just bought new expensive equipment. You feel guilty over wasting the purchase, letting it sit idle or not investing more time to get your money worth.

perceived incremental improvement. in golf especially, it's way easier to blame the equipment than yourself. doesn't matter the actual result. it just feels like you're making a move towards progression when you change your tools.

Hell, it's often a step backwards. A lot of mid-handicappers prematurely upgrade to equipment that's only actually beneficial in the hands of an excellent player.

Depends on “how” the shoe makes you run faster if it’s by improving the grip and gate then yes it can make you fitter or at least reduce the chance of injury.

People that run in shoes not fit for running or in wore down shoes put their health at risk as well as making it a hell of a lot harder for themselves.

Also there is a psychological factor if you feel that you are improving you might be more likely to keep running instead of giving up.

Well, many people do care.

You don't have to be elite to want to run faster. Keep in mind there seems to be no good reason to exercise more than 30 min 3-4 times a week, but many runners choose to do a lot more than that.

For that matter, there's no good reason for most of the things people buy or time they spend on the hobbies and other leisure activities they pursue.

I can assure you, they will not need to focus their marketing efforts on convincing people to care about going faster. A great number of amateur runners already do. (Not all, different runners are motivated by different things.)

New rules say that athletes can't wear shoes not available to the general public:

> “Any type of shoe used [in competition] must be reasonably available to all in the spirit of the universality of athletics.”


clearly, they're selling these shoes to enthusiasts, rather than just targeting elite athletes.

It seems to me that enthusiasts are the perfect market for it. People with serious hobbies are often fairly comfortably well off and also may have neither the time nor ambition to train harder. Poor people often can't afford to be enthusiasts. They are too busy scrambling to survive and too tired to do anything other than stare at the TV or something like that when they aren't desperately trying to make their life work.

Given that you can apparently make money playing video games by grinding for items other people value and selling them for real money to players who have more money than time, I don't see why you couldn't sell pricey shoes to running enthusiasts.

This isn't really stated or testing, but one of my biggest issues with running is how much pain I feel on my joints. I actually find it really enjoyable to run through the woods with my dog, but my knees just get mad. If these shoes relieved just a tiny bit of that pain I would find them almost worth it. Not saying one should buy an expensive pair of shoes, but if it was the case, maybe the shoes don't just make you run better, but actually walk better and more safe?

If your knees hurt it's either a form problem (you're likely overstriding or lifting your knees too high and slamming your feet into the ground), or a shoe problem (shoes are only good for 300-600 miles of running, assuming you never wear them walking and that you let them bounce back at least overnight after a run, or you're wearing like... motion control and heavily padded shoes when you need less stability or less padding, or vice versa)

Other options are bad knees (unlikely, honestly. Not many people have knees that are so genuinely shot that they can't run, unless they're former paratroopers or are very years old)

Or, if you're carrying a lot of extra weight (backpack full of water? I don't know, people do whatever they do), that'll hurt.

Since you're talking about running in the woods, it's almost definitely not the sidewalk, but, some people need to build up their muscles and tendons by going from softer surfaces (not so soft like sand, but grass) to ashphalt, to concrete.

Don't forget lack of ankle mobility. If the ankle can't do the job, the knee tries to, and that doesn't work all that well.

This is why I use an elliptical machine. (specifically the Octane Fitness Q47) Zero impact to joints. The Octane Fitness machines are great b/c they are very close to actual running. In fact from the looks of it the Zero Runner may be exactly like running now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=xUIIsjX7mJg

That's a perfectly legitimate concern, and would be a great reason to get something like this if you can afford it — but that's not how they're selling these shoes.

Instead, they're focusing on the athletic performance aspect, to the point that, near as I can tell, they're outright fanning the flames of controversy around the idea that these shoes are unfairly fast.

I could never understand why so many people run as a sport, when nearly all runners eventually develop joint problems, many requiring knee replacements (which you supposedly can't run on).

This oft-repeated claim is factually inaccurate. Runners and former runners, as a population, have better knees than non-runners.[0]

[0]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27333572

I wouldn't draw very many conclusions from that study.

The study itself says:

> This was an observational study where people chose whether or not they wanted to run; therefore there is always the possibility that people stopped running because they had knee pain.

That's a pretty big flaw in their study.

Sure. It's just provided as an example of a source. The comment it responds to provided no evidence for the claim made.

> > This was an observational study where people chose whether or not they wanted to run; therefore there is always the possibility that people stopped running because they had knee pain.

> That's a pretty big flaw in their study.

How do you figure? These people are accounted for in the data. Regardless of why people stopped running, they have better outcomes than never-runners. E.g.:

> Any history of running was associated with less frequent knee pain (table 2) in the unadjusted and adjusted models compared to those who never ran.

knee pain isn't the same as joint problems.

All runners who run regularly will eventually develop knee or ankle pain. It's sort of normal for semi-serious distance runners to own a pair of crutches. I'm not saying all of them, but, if you need a pair of crutches, ask your friends who run and one of them will have a pair.

But, your knee can hurt for a while without it turning into joint problems.

> This was an observational study where people chose whether or not they wanted to run; therefore there is always the possibility that people stopped running because they had knee pain. As such, we cannot comment upon the influence of compulsory running on overall knee health.

so... forced running might cause osteoarthritis. But, if you feel like going for a run and it doesn't hurt, it's not going to cause joint problems.

> Our study findings add to the existing literature by including a large sample within which we were able to assess the influence of running in people who participated in running for shorter amounts of time and perhaps stopped running in a cohort that had high quality of assessments of symptoms and standardized radiographs. We found that runners in this group were not at a higher risk for symptomatic knee OA.

That's weird...I know hundreds of runners ranging from their teens to their 70s and only two of us own crutches. I have a pair because my brother broke his knee playing basketball and left them at my place. Another runner has a pair because a car hit her while she was biking and broke her leg.

Weird. Must just be the people I know then?

Overuse injuries got a bunch of people I knew. They'd use crutches to speed recovery up a bit, or to get around if it was bad enough.

Why do you guys survey your friends for crutches?

Joint damage and pain from running is real, and if it's a concern you have, you might want to look into speaking with a professional in that space.

There are exercises, stretches and techniques you can learn, as well as products you can buy that you aren't going to find at a Foot Locker.

my question is: do amateur runners even buy $250 shoes? I don't think they do spend that much money on a Running Shoe at that stage. Also, how can this be not good marketing if the Shoes does exactly what the marketing message tries to portray?

Typical running shoes are about $100/pair. In some cases, more like $125 or even $150. Not infrequently, you can find them on sale, but that's the ballpark for the regular price.

Also, it's not uncommon for a runner to spend $50 per pair of shorts and $30 on a shirt, and you need about 5 of each if you train for a marathon because you're going to be running 5 days a week. Not to mention socks. Many if not most runners these days also have a GPS watch, and those usually go for $200 for a basic model.

And then of course, a lot of runners travel to other cities to run marathons. So you might spend $250 on airfare and another $250 on staying in a hotel the night before and after the race. Of course, the race itself charges a fee (lots of logistics to close 26.2 miles of road, time people, provide food, etc.), which is typically around $100 to $150.

So spending an extra $150 on a pair of shoes for the race isn't really going to radically alter the total budget.

"Amateur runners" is an extremely broad collection of people. Everyone from someone training for their first charity 5K to those who run multiple marathons a year can fall into this category.

Some amateur runners definitely spend $250 on shoes, either because they have so much money that $250 is basically the same as $70 to them or because they are very serious amateurs.

Runners usually have multiple pairs of running shoes. The foam compresses from running so if you run every day, and you use the same shoe, the foam does not rebound and you can destroy the shoe. Three pairs is usually the sweet spot. Running shoes at like $200 a pair on not uncommon, and then multiply that by 3.

Dude YES there's certainly a market for $300 shoes if someone would release them.

Suunto just released a $650 GPS watch.

Running has so few accessories - it should be a cheap sport to pursue but, a fool and their money...

If I was actually using my legs to move places I wanted to be instead of chasing "fitness" I'd be pretty interested in 4% gains in efficiency.

Maximizing speed is a legitimate desirable outcome, not pure marketing. It doesn’t have to be all about mastering the zen of running.

What if I'm in a life or death running situation where seconds matter?

It’s fun and exhilarating to run faster, but very few people, almost by definition, enter the ranks of elite runners. One of the best pieces of advice I heard while training for my first marathon was “No one here in this (beginner) training group is going to finish in first place.” Obviously, I knew this was true about me, but it always reminded me to keep my goals for doing a marathon in perspective.

I had set a goal for myself and a faster set of shoes might have gotten me to the Boston marathon a year sooner, but it was the journey not the destination that was so rewarding.

> “No one here in this (beginner) training group is going to finish in first place.”

Almost always true. But it's fun to dream about being in Bill Rodgers' situation (in running or any other activity). In 1973 he was chain-smoking bar-regular who liked eating pizza topped with mayonnaise and who had no interest in running marathons. In 1975 he was the fastest American ever.

Shoes so fast they might have to be banned. Good old marketing trick.

When cleats were first introduced to soccer decades ago people had the same debate. I think technological advancements changing a sport is inevitable. What if Adidas makes a similar shoes that makes you 3% faster? 2% 1%? where do you draw the line?

Why not make pro football players wear standardized shoes during a game? The issue with customized shoes I see is wealthier teams will have better equipment.

> Why not make pro football players wear standardized shoes during a game?

I don't know whether this image is accurate, but: https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/es-footb...

Really though, standardised boots would probably not kill this market. In cricket, for example, it's common for players to use a bat that is dressed up to look like the product of their sponsor, while actually being manufactured by someone else entirely. This is a bit of an open secret, so I guess that footwear companies would also be willing to pay good money to have 'their' boots worn by the big stars, even if the public knew that they weren't allowed to be meaningfully different from the boots everyone else was wearing.

A genuinely good reason not to force standardised boots is just how different everyone's needs are. Feet don't just differ in size, but in shape (in three dimensions), not to mention all the other things that can affect a person's natural gait, weight distribution and so on. I think it would be hard to write regulations tight enough to preclude an unfair advantage for richer teams, without also forcing some players into boots that would be not only sub-optimal but even dangerous (in the sense of increasing the risk of injury).

If true I wouldn't discount the benefit, even small. It reminds me the theory of marginal gains popularized by Team SKY in cycling. In the aggregate all these small details add-up and may make the difference.

True. At the absolute top probably 0.1% will already make a big difference.

I'm surprised they didn't compare the Vaporfly 4% to two other shoes: the Nike Zoom Fly and the Reebok Floatride Run Fast. The former is an identical shoe, but with the Pebax replaced with another foam (Lunarlon?). The latter is another Pebax foam shoe, but in a different form factor. That way they could tease out of it is the material or the shoe design.

Props to whomever at Nike PR got this article released. Now I want a pair. Its better to be controversial (Uber, Lime, Bird) these days than on the up and up. Help us fight for consumer rights!

Comparing these shoes to Uber's issues seems a bit odd. Particularly since there isn't anything all that amoral about them.

Just the initial Uber launch issues. I view municipalities questioning whether Uber should be allowed to operate in their jurisdiction as akin to should these shoes be legal in races.

Ah, that makes a whole lot more sense. I completely misunderstood.



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