Science

Rise of the athletics ‘super-shoe’: Carbon fibre plates and air pods boost speed

New ‘super-shoes’ are allowing athletes at the Tokyo Olympics to smash world records thanks to their carbon-fibre plates and air pod ‘mattresses’.

Sports chiefs were already facing huge pressure to ban high-tech footwear before the delayed games even began.

And now the controversial issue – which has been brewing for years – has been thrust into the limelight once again, with all eyes on Nike’s Air Zoom Maxfly.

Norway’s 400m hurdles gold medal winner Karsten Warholm today launched a rant against Nike’s ‘bull****’ spike technology after winning one of the ‘greatest Olympic races of all time’.

He obliterated his own world record to claim gold while wearing the £170 ($236) Puma EvoSpeed Future Faster+ spikes, designed with the Mercedes F1 team.

But Rai Benjamin from the US, wearing the £165 ($229) Nike Maxfly spikes, came in a very close second ,and also beat the previous world record of 46.70 seconds set by Warholm in Oslo last year.

The new generation of high-tech running shoes – branded a technological arms race between footwear giants – have been created to boost performance, further enhanced by specially designed running tracks.

Expert say this means current speeds achieved by modern athletes can’t be compared to those of the past due to the boost the technology provides.

New ‘super-shoes’ are allowing athletes at the Tokyo Olympics to smash world records thanks to their carbon-fibre plates and air pod ‘mattresses’

Warholm pips America's Benjamin Rai to gold in a final that will live long in the memory

Warholm pips America’s Benjamin Rai to gold in a final that will live long in the memory

COMPARED: NIKE  MAXFLY AND PUMA EVOSPEED SPIKES

Two of the leading ‘super-spikes’ are the Nike Maxfly and Puma Evospeed.

Puma EvoSpeed Future Faster+

The issue isn’t new and first reared its head in 2016, with Nike’s Vaporfly product raising concern among commentators and experts alike. 

During the 2016 Olympic marathon in Rio all three male medalists were wearing a prototype of the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoe, with the same technology extended to track races from 2018.

Experts predict the shoe improved the running economy of highly trained runners by four per cent compared to a normal shoe, and improving performance by three per cent.

Since 2016 when the Vaporfly was released the top 50 male marathon runners have improved by about two per cent on average, much of which attributed to the carbon fibre plate. 

‘The same shoe gives you a massive variability among different athletes — even greater than 10 per cent in some cases,’ says Professor Yannis Pitsiladis, of the International Olympic Committee. 

‘How you respond to the shoe can determine if you’re going to be an Olympian or watch it on TV. 

‘You know who is going to win and who can qualify [for the Games]. 

‘Athletes have qualified because they had access to a super shoe. And many who were not running in these shoes didn’t qualify.’ 

Pitsiladis compares the shoes to a form of ‘technological doping’ and wants the regulations to be changed so that the shoes cannot determine the outcome of a race. 

Lord Sebastian Coe, former British Olympic gold medal winner and middle-distance world record holder, said at a media event in March that he expected there would be a number of records set in Tokyo, but not just because of the new super spike shoes. 

‘The answer is that I hope we have a clutch of world records in Tokyo and I think they will reflect a whole series of interlocking factors that go to high class performance.’

It was nip and tuck between Warholm and Benjamin right up until the finish line in the final

It was nip and tuck between Warholm and Benjamin right up until the finish line in the final 

The Nike Air Zoom Maxfly shoes feature a carbon fibre plate and air cushion to boost performance

The Puma EvoSpeed Future Faster+ spikes were developed in collaboration with the Mercedes F1 team

The Nike (left) worn by Benjaminand Puma (right) worn by Warholm super spike shoes cost between £160 and £170 and are designed to boost the performance of middle-distance runners

How Nike’s £240 Vaporfly sparked the super shoe debate at the 2016 Olympic marathon in Rio… and are now worn by almost ever road runner 

The debate of super shoes isn’t new and first reared its head in 2016, with Nike’s £240 Vaporfly product raising concern among commentators and experts alike.

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% is named a such due to its performance boosting capabilities

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% is named a such due to its performance boosting capabilities

During the 2016 Olympic marathon in Rio, all three male medallists wore a prototype of the trainer, with the same technology extended to track races from 2018.

Now the high-tech trainers, which are lighter and more responsive, are ‘almost ubiquitous on the feet of elite road runners’.

That is according to Jonathan Taylor, a sports researcher at Teesside University, who has branded the revolution in footwear development a ‘technological arms race’.

Experts predicted the shoe improved the running economy of highly trained runners by four per cent compared to a normal shoe, boosting performance by three per cent.

Since 2016 when the Vaporfly was released, the top 50 male marathon runners have improved by about two per cent on average, much of which attributed to the carbon fibre plate.

Similar technology was then transferred into track spikes in 2019 which led to middle- and long-distant records falling.

Regulations were introduced in January 2020 over the sole thickness of track spikes used in sports other than high jump and long jump.

This was due to other companies replicating their carbon-fibre plate and springy foam technology into more spikes for running shoes.

The new regulations require a maximum sole thickness of 20mm for up to 400m races and 25mm for any longer distances.

However, experts say this is far too lenient, suggesting rules should be stricter and to a point where air pods can’t be inserted into the spikes.   

Coe admitted that World Athletics, of which he is now president, should have done more to tackle the growing ‘super spike’ problem when he took over in 2015.

A study published by the University of Massachusetts last month explored new innovations in athletics, including lightweight, resilient, and compliant midsole foam, altered geometry, and increased longitudinal bending stiffness in shoes.

They wanted to find a way to quantify the benefit of the new technology, but found too many confounding factors had to be considered.

The team suggested it would be necessary to wait for multiple companies to offer the technology and for it to be so widely used you can track results in competition.

‘In the end, we might just need to rely on an unbiased comparison of track performances pre- and post- the introduction of super spikes, or, at the individual level, changes in an athlete’s training or race times,’ the authors wrote.

‘In several years, we can expect performance analyses into the historical development of annual top 20 and top 50 performances, similar to those currently being published for marathon super shoes. 

‘It is tempting to attribute any new world record to footwear innovation, but the long-term performance trajectories of, for example, Sydney McLaughlin and Karsten Warholm, cannot be ignored,’ the authors said. 

In the 400m hurdles, Warholm bested his own world record set last month by 0.76 seconds, but the silver and bronze placed runners also beat the same record.

He admitted super spikes had an impact on times, but insisted there was a difference between the ones he wears and those worn by second place Benjamin. 

Warholm was wearing the Puma EvoSpeed Future Faster+ shoes that were developed with support from the Mercedes Formula One team and contain a carbon-fibre plate.

This is designed to aid with energy transfer, and improve overall speed for the athlete as they race on the track.  

The Nike Air Zoom Maxfly spikes, worn by Benjamin, are similar but also include an air pod underneath the forefoot to provide a bounce effect. 

Warholm described this as being like putting a trampoline in the shoe, saying it takes credibility away from the sport.

His own shoes, he said, were designed to be as credible as can be, focusing on making them thin and light, but that adding a cushion was ‘bull****’.

‘Of course, technology will always be there but I also want to keep it down to a level where we can actually compare results. That’s important,’ he said.

Benjamin countered this saying he would run fast no matter what, adding that while there is some efficiency in the shoe, the effort was in the runners themselves.  

The designer behind Tokyo Olympic Stadium running track is making athletes faster, as well as new technologies in the shoes they are wearing

The designer behind Tokyo Olympic Stadium running track is making athletes faster, as well as new technologies in the shoes they are wearing 

QUANTIFYING SUPER-SPIKE SHOES ‘NOT POSSIBLE’ YET

A study by the University of Massachusetts explored new innovations in athletics, including lightweight, resilient, and compliant midsole foam, altered geometry, and increased longitudinal bending stiffness in shoes.

They wanted to find a way to quantify the benefit of the new technology, but found too many confounding factors had to be considered.

The team suggested it would be necessary to wait for multiple companies to offer the technology and for it to be so widely used you can track results in competition.

‘In the end, we might just need to rely on an unbiased comparison of track performances pre- and post- the introduction of super spikes, or, at the individual level, changes in an athlete’s training or race times,’ authors wrote.

‘In several years, we can expect performance analyses into the historical development of annual top 20 and top 50 performances, similar to those currently being published for marathon super shoes. 

‘It is tempting to attribute any new world record to footwear innovation, but the long-term performance trajectories of, for example, Sydney McLaughlin and Karsten Warholm, cannot be ignored,’ the authors said.

The findings have been published in the SportRxiv preprint

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has been critical of the super-shoes, saying records set with them is unfair on those from previous eras of athletics. 

He told the Guardian he could have run the 100 metres in under 9.5 seconds ‘without a doubt’ if he had the new generation of spikes.  

‘When I was told about it I couldn’t believe that this is what we have gone to. 

‘That we are really adjusting the spikes to a level where it’s now giving athletes an advantage to run even faster. 

‘It’s weird and unfair for a lot of athletes because I know that in the past they actually tried and the governing body said, ‘No, you can’t change the spikes’.’

Geoff Burns, an expert in biomechanics from the University of Michigan said that technologies will likely align between manufacturers to create a level playing field among elite athletes. 

He told AFP that the sport hasn’t completely re-calibrated what’s good and what’s great due to the rise in technology, adding it will take two years to get a feeling for what is a ‘truly exceptional performance’ in the new era.  

Nike first combined a carbon fibre plate with hyper-responsive foam after the Rio Olympics in road shoes, causing marathon times to tumble. 

This was then transferred into track spikes in 2019 which led to middle- and long-distant records falling.

Regulations were introduced in January 2020 over the sole thickness of track spikes used in sports other than high jump and long jump. 

This was due to other companies replicating their carbon-fibre plate and springy foam technology into more spikes for running shoes. 

The new regulations require a maximum sole thickness of 20mm for up to 400m races and 25mm for any longer distances. 

However, experts say this is far too lenient, suggesting rules should be stricter and to a point where air pods can’t be inserted into the spikes. 

Karsten Warholm SMASHES his own world record to win gold in thrilling 400m men’s hurdles final… fending off America’s Rai Benjamin to win one of the greatest Olympic races of all time before Norwegian star slams ‘bull****’ spike technology 

All hail the king of Vikings and hurdles. That’s both for Karsten Warholm’s mind-shredding world record on Tuesday and his subsequent dismantling of ‘bulls***’ spike technologies.

In regards to the former, the Norwegian triumphed in what was one of the greatest Olympic races of all time, clocking 45.94sec in the 400m hurdles to beat his old mark by more than 0.78sec as well as his great American rival Rai Benjamin.

Benjamin, at 46.17sec, was also inside the previous record, but he just couldn’t catch Warholm, who ripped open his vest in celebration as he crossed the line. Superman, indeed. 

‘A lot of the time I am asked about the perfect race,’ Warholm said. ‘I said it didn’t exist, but this is the closest I’ve ever come. In the last 20m I couldn’t feel my legs. I just ran for my life.

‘I feel sorry for Benjamin taking the silver at 46.17sec – he would deserve a gold medal as well.’

Benjamin was as stunned as anyone by what played out. ‘If you would have told me I was going to run 46.1 and lose, I would probably beat you up and tell you to get out of my room.

‘I would say this is the best race ever in the Olympics. I don’t think anything can compare to it. It is undeniable, it was insane.’

Quite aside from a magnificent performance, where Warholm also stood out was his willingness to discuss the technological role in the times.

There have been exceptional times across the past two years with advancing spikes and shoes, and here in particular owing to a new Mondo track described by Warholm as ‘crazy’ and ‘great’.

Most Related Links :
todayuknews Governmental News Finance Newsnews

Source link

Back to top button
Native News Post