Super-Shoes: Do Male Triathletes Reap the Benefits?
Background: Running performance is the greatest contributor to overall race time in long-distance triathlon. Therefore, triathletes are constantly on the search for strategies to enhance their running performance, and recent advances in running footwear (‘super shoes’) appear to offer a potential solution. There is evidence from studies of runners to support a positive impact of super shoes on performance, but there is no evidence to suggest that these improvements necessarily carry over to long-distance triathletes, where their effect could be moderated by the preceding cycle. Additionally, much of the running-related evidence is related to elite-level athletes, and there is a need to examine the effects of super shoes in age-group (non-elite) athletes.
Objective: The broad aim of this study is to determine if male age-group triathletes reap the benefits of super shoes, with the specific research question being: Do carbon-plated running shoes improve running performance and performance-related kinematic variables in a simulated cycle-run transition in age-group long-distance triathletes?
Methods: Eight male age-group long-distance triathletes visited the laboratory on three occasions in an acute randomised balanced crossover design. The first session served as a characterisation trial, which involved a maximal incremental cycling assessment. Sessions two and three were experimental trials, consisting of an initial treadmill running economy assessment, a two-hour fatiguing cycle on a stationary bike, a post-fatigue running economy assessment, and finishing with a 10km treadmill time-trial in either a super shoe (Asics Metaspeed Sky) or a control traditional racing shoe (Asics Evoride 3). Running economy and biomechanical variables were recorded during both running economy assessments.
Results: Time-trial performance was significantly better in the super shoe compared to the control shoe (p=0.002). Mean ground contact time (p=0.001, ηp2 = 0.793) and running economy (p=0.034, ηp2 =0.554) were significantly different between shoe conditions when averaged across the pre- and post-fatiguing cycle. The fatiguing cycle significantly differed in mean cadence (0.011, ηp2 =0.630), flight time (p=0.006, ηp2 =0.677), and stride length (p=0.012, ηp2 =0.621).
Conclusion: Super shoes improve running performance and influence biomechanical variables of running performance in male age-group long-distance triathletes.