Great shoes for long runs

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If there’s one part of my body that takes the brunt of all my runs, it’s my calves. For years I have worn compression sleeves to keep them from feeling so damaged (they may not have a proven effect on performance, but I certainly felt less bad after wearing them!). This summer, however, a friend and running trainer suggested that instead of wearing my standard sneakers, I do my long runs in a pair of Nike Zoom Alphafly Next%, the style I planned to wear to run the Marathon. Chicago. But these are running shoes! I thought. You don’t wear them to training!

But for $ 275 I should be able to pull more from a pair of shoes than 80 miles or so, right? (That number isn’t something any brand or expert would recommend. It’s just what I considered an appropriate number of miles to break shoes, plus the 26.2 on race day.)

I had an older pair that I had run minimal miles on, so I decided to give them a chance. And after an 18 mile run, I was amazed at how good my calves felt. In fact, after several long races in the Alphaflies, I felt so good that I didn’t even wear my calves on race day – and I managed to do some PR in consecutive marathons.

Super expensive shoes i.e. advanced high stack midsole, carbon plated shoes like Alphafly, New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2, Brooks Hyperion Elite 2, adizero Adios Pro 2 d ‘Adidas, Asics’ Metaspeed Sky and Saucony’s Endorphin Pro 2 – have become the de facto styles for runners chasing PRs. But should we all wear them for long runs, one of the most important workouts in distance training?

I dug through the research and spoke to experts to answer this question.

The benefits of super shoes for long runs

While the temptation is to save these shoes for race day, they weren’t designed to be running sneakers. “There’s this perception with running shoes, like ‘I want new, I want fresh’, but we definitely test them and build them to last longer,” says Elliott Heath of the Nike Running Product team. “We’ve seen a lot of runners successfully run in a pair of Alphaflies and then use that same pair for key training runs in their next training cycle. “

This is because they have been shown to not only increase your speed but also allow better efficiency. They do this through the superior energy storage in the foam, the leverage effects of the carbon plate on the mechanics of the ankle joint, and the stiffening effects of the plate on the metatarsophalangeal joints (the joints between the foot and toes), according to a 2019 to study in the review Sports medicine. All of this can translate into better endurance.

In addition, better running efficiency results in less wear and tear on your body. (Keep in mind, however, that 2021 to research in the Journal of Sport and Health Sciences found that the super shoes are not enough as good for reducing the metabolic cost of running uphill as it is when running downhill or on a flat surface.)

“There’s no longer that inverse relationship between speed and impact protection,” says Heath. “By using the strongest, most energy-intensive materials, you don’t just get speed benefits, your muscles, bones and joints absorb less of the impact. ” Or at least, some of your muscles, bones and joints.

For people with calf issues, like me, or general lower foot pain, the remarkable features of super shoes can be of benefit, says Rami Hashish, Ph.D., founder of the National Institute of Biomechanics and Doctor in physiotherapy. . “The increased stiffness of the midsole thanks to the carbon plate – along with the materials they use in the midsole – put the calf muscles and tendons in a more favorable position where you are a little more plantarly flexed,” “He explains. This is useful for a midfoot or forefoot attacker as it puts less strain on the calves and Achilles tendons.

Also, considering runners who split their mileage between two or more shoes had 39 percent fewer injuries than those who ran with only one pair of shoes in 2013 to study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in SportSo swapping out your long-lasting sneakers for a pair of awesome shoes is probably a good decision, at least for some people.

The cons of wearing great shoes for long runs

Using great shoes for long runs is not a one-size-fits-all approach. “Anytime you have an elastic shoe with a cool material like carbon fiber or Boost foam [in Adidas shoes], you’ll feel better now, ”says Casey Kerrigan, MD, long-distance runner and founder of OESH shoes. “But while it might seem easier on your legs, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the least impact on your joints. ”

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of research to say how super shoes will work to reduce the strain of a long run for people who feel like their quads or glutes are doing most of the work – science. primarily indicates calf benefits. Plus, for runners with knee pain or knocking on the heel, these types of shoes can actually make the problem worse or cause new problems, Hashish says.

“[These shoes] have been shown to increase the rates at which strength [of impact] increases, which is directly associated with the degradation of knee cartilage and meniscus, ”he explains. Translation: The force with which you strike the ground will move your leg up faster, which could overload the joint. (FYI: Knee problems accounted for 27% of runner injuries at a recent university in Gothenburg to study over 200 recreational runners.)

That’s not to say that people with knee or heel issues shouldn’t wear great shoes for long runs, or not at all. It’s just that wearing them more often won’t necessarily benefit these types of runners in the same way that it might help those with calf issues.

Another downside: Super shoes tend to have an upward curve in the front, i.e. a toe spring. This feature keeps the muscles in your feet from working so hard when you run because it propels you forward, according to a 2020 to study published in the journal Scientific reports. Not only does this weaken the muscles in the feet, but “when you get that stack height in the forefoot you compromise flexibility in the metatarsals, which is important for minimizing loads,” says Kerrigan.

Even if you feel like your legs are doing the lion’s share of the work during the run, strong, stable and mobile feet are essential for optimizing performance. And running in great shoes all the time can prevent your feet from having the mobility and strength they need to keep you moving.

Running in high shoes can change too How? ‘Or’ What you run, says Hashish – your stride length, your pace, your impact on the ground. “And not everyone can resist it,” he adds. “It can put them in a position where they’re loading their body in a way they’re not used to, and it can lead to injury.” And, yes, these effects can show even if you only wear these great shoes for long runs once a week.

It often takes a little longer for people to adjust to running in a healthy way, so give it a bit, Hashish says, but if you notice any further pain, switch back to another pair of shoes.

Either way, it’s critical that runners test these shoes on shorter runs before embarking on a long run or running, as research shows they may not work for everyone. . In fact, a study from Oregon State University showed that runners who walked the 5 km distance absorbed more of the impact forces of the run, which can increase their risk of injury, when they wore high-speed shoes. maximum padding compared to regular sneakers. (This differs from other more positive research on super shoes because it focused on cushioning versus carbon plate.)

Great shoes and long runs: the result

Calf and heel issues aside, the reality is people are going to buy great race day shoes because they are quick. And if you do that, you might as well to try to get more benefits during training. The key is to just listen to your body and see how it reacts to it.

“You first have to understand how you hit the ground and how you run,” says Hashish. “If your Achilles is overworked then you put on these shoes, it can reduce your risk of injury and increase your energy efficiency. If you’re a heel striker who doesn’t have a lot of issues, it’s not really beneficial to change. That is, unless a change suits you better.

There isn’t a single shoe that can prevent injury, protect your legs, or make running more enjoyable for every runner. But when you find a shoe that does you feel good, especially if it’s a $ 275 awesome shoe, you want to get every penny of this cutting edge technology.

In my case, I have officially taken my calves off and will be running double digits in the maximum shoes from now on. Try them out for yourself, starting with shorter runs and going up to long runs and then your run, and maybe you will join me in donning these next level shoes for way more than the line. starting point.

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