Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220952
Story Retrieval Date: 9/23/2014 1:22:50 PM CST

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Cara Cooper/MEDILL

Shoe technology has made it possible for runners to find any type of shoe they can imagine.


Racing to the future: New shoe technology creating better experience for runners

by Cara Cooper
May 2, 2013


Runners have loads of new shoe choices

There are dozens of options for runners looking for that perfect shoe.
Dan Kittaka, buyer for Fleet Feet Sports in Lincoln Square, commented on some of the new technology that has hit shelves this year:
Adidas Energy Boost ($150)
“The Adidas Boost are the first shoes using thermoplastic polyurethane, which has been used in footwear before, but taking it and using it in pellet form and making it a very consistent shoe and a great energy and rebound. You’re getting a very different, very consistent running experience, which is something you weren’t getting out of foam shoes because foam shoes actually break down relatively quickly because they’re not incredible durable and the experience is very inconsistent based on temp and based on life of shoes.”
Nike Flyknit  ($120-$160)
“Nike purchased a bunch of these machines that actually knit this material in different densities so instead of using a bunch of different materials they’re actually just knitting in one piece a shoe upper so the really cool thing is there’s very little waste. There’s basically no waste, just a short string after it’s finished. And this is all uniform material.”
Brooks PureCadence  ($120)
“The Brooks PureCadence came out of the barefoot movement. They’re not going for that sort of extreme. Instead of squeezing the foot they’re allowing the foot to lay out and move more naturally. It’s changing the way the heel contacts the ground, by moving the heel forward and creating a more anatomic shape.”
Asics FluidAxis ($90)
“The Asics are putting in flex grooves, which actually mimics the joints of your foot. So in the past they were just trying to mechanically dissipate shock, now they’re actually looking at the anatomical construction of your foot so that the shoe can respond a lot more easily to the natural motion of your body. It’s a lot more customized in that regard.”

 

Note: Shoe prices are from manufacturers' websites.


For many runners, finding the perfect pair of shoes can be daunting. With hundreds of different makes and models, it can be tough to find that perfect shoe for preferred distance and running style, while still being their favorite color.

 “I’m very particular about my shoes,” said Drew Edwards, a senior on DePaul University’s track team.  “I want a little bit of flash. Bright colors, not too flashy but not too boring,”

 
Edwards, who runs long distances during practice, said that the most important thing to him is having a comfortable pair of shoes.

 
“There’s a lot of trends out now, like the barefoot technology, and minimalist shoe, and it’s sort of tempting to try those, but I try to stay consistent to what has worked in the past,” he said.

Right now Edwards is wearing the Nike Structure shoe, and he has had several pairs like it before. 
 
Because he has flat feet, he likes the airbag technology that provides support and cushioning on the instep of his foot. He also appreciates that the shoes are light and allow air to flow through them on hot days. The fact that they come in his favorite color also makes them appealing.

 
Shoemakers are trying to take the pain out of purchasing new running shoes, with shoes focused on  the right amount of cushioning and being the right shape, while also being environmentally friendly. Dan Kittaka, shoe buyer for Fleet Feet Sports in Lincoln Square, said runners should be able to try on a shoe and know after a quick jog if it is right for them. But it is also important to know the options  available to them.
 
Shoe companies are starting to focus more on how the shoes are shaped, in hopes of providing better support and stability for a more natural feel.

“You’re seeing a lot of lower heel-to-toe differential, so heel heights in the shoe are coming down in order to allow more midfoot stride,” Kittaka said. “A lot of people find it easier to land midfoot and use your arch to absorb shock.”

Asics FluidAxis has put flex grooves in the middle part of the shoe to mimic the joints in the foot. And Brooks PureCadence moves the heel forward so the foot can be flatter and have a more natural movement.


Kittaka said that cushioning technology in shoes is also seeing a dramatic change for the first time in more than 40 years. Previously, shoes were made with ethylene vinyl acetate, known as EVA, a foam material that would take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.
 
Brooks Sports has created its own version of EVA, called BioMoGo, that provides more cushioning while also being more environmentally friendly.


“Traditionally, this material takes about 1,000 years to biodegrade in a landfill,” Kittaka said. “BioMoGo is a type of EVA which biodegrades 50 times faster so it will biodegrade in 20 years.”


There are also many changes in the way shoes are being constructed to eliminate excess material and exposure to toxic glues. Nike has created FlyKnits, which have just one small string of excess material remaining after being made.


“Nike purchased a bunch of these machines that actually knit this material in different densities. So instead of using a bunch of different materials, they’re actually just knitting in one piece a shoe upper so there is very little waste. And this is all uniform material,” Kittaka said.


Another advance in shoe technology is chips installed in the shoe to tell the runner the distance and speed that he or she ran. Nike Plus is installed in the left shoe and runners can look at the information of their run through an app on their iPhone or iPod. There are also interactive websites to see where other people in a city are running, creating “social networks through running technology,” Kittaka said. Adidas has something similar called MiCoach, and Garmin has GPS trackers that can be attached to a shoe that provides the same information.


Andrew Craycraft, assistant cross country coach at DePaul, said the good thing about having so many types of shoes out now is that companies have released a model of shoe that fits every runner.


“In the past, runners were limited to certain cosmetic features specific in different shoes, and not many had variations,” he said. “All companies now have models that reflect different running types and different needs for runners.”


Craycraft said the most important thing is to have someone watch how the individual walks and runs and take note of how his or her foot hits the ground.

“It’s best to watch them run on a treadmill and see how their toe strikes, if they’re overstriding, if they’re dominant on one leg.You’re just looking for little biomechanical clues,” he said.


Kittaka said runners can "self-select" a shoe based on trying them and doing a quick jog. He added: “Go with the model that feels the most natural and comfortable on your foot.”