Are super shoes key to winning the race?

14 Dec, 2023
Are super shoes key to winning the race?
Sam Keats, Ironman age group champion

With IronMan NZ being the world’s second longest-running Ironman with a proud and rich history deeply rooted in Taupō, it should come as no surprise that kiwis enjoy running. But how can kiwis win the race so to speak?

‘Super shoes’ have begged the question around how much they can benefit runners and whether they be allowed in marathons such as Ironman.

Super shoes, aka carbon shoes aren’t anything new, and have been around since the mid-90s. Despite the hefty price tag carbons shoes come with, which sometimes can upwards of $1000 a pair, Ironman age group champion Sam Keats believes they are super soft, springy and a lot more stable.

Sam Keats, who has just completed his masters at AUT, has researched into the footwear for his masters of sport, exercise and health, looking at impact on runners wearing the super shoes.

His research involved a small selection of men who had completed an Ironman in the last 12 months, who ran 11km, first in standard running shoes, then in super shoes provided by Asics. While they weren’t running as far as the elite marathon and Ironman athletes, there was still a stark difference.

“We’ve proved for the average person it’s still beneficial to wear these shoes. On average they were 2.7 minutes quicker over 10km in the super shoes, which was about a 5% [gain].”

However, with most performance enhancing assistance in sports, the modern super shoes’ have sparked a wave of conversations about whether these shoes should be banned by World Athletics.

“I think banning them would be a bit much. They have introduced regulations around them now, with how thick you're allowed to make the foam on the shoe, and you're only allowed to have one plate. I don't know if banning them completely is the right answer.”

For now, they won’t be banned. It’s also led to some in sports media dubbing the situation “plastic athletics”. Sam insists more research needs to be done, particularly regarding the shoes’ impact on the body, including hips and toes.

Regardless of sceptics, Sam will be lacing up his super shoes again next season for Ironman, and half Ironman races in Australia and around Aotearoa, including in Taupō, as he looks to continue raising his personal bests.

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