A recent study by Kyle Barnes out of Grand Valley State University examined running economy in track spikes versus marathon racing shoes.
The study took highly trained male and female distance runners and put them through four five-minute trial sessions on a treadmill. Athletes wore commercially available Nike track spikes, Nike Vaporflys and Adidas Adios 3s for their sessions. Barnes and his team found that runners wearing the Vaporfly improved their running economy by 2.6 percent when compared to the Nike Zoom Matumbo track spikes.
The researchers also examined the differences in the spikes and Vaporfly’s using a 300m indoor track. “Nine of the participants (four male, five female) in this study had competed in 3K or 5K races in their own racing shoes (spikes for all nine aforementioned participants) before participating in this study, and then again over the same respective distance in NVF shoes.” In their sub-sample of nine runners, when wearing the Vaporfly’s the runners improved by 1.9 per cent over their respective performances in their own spikes.
Gwen Jorgensen wore a specialty pair of the Nike Vaporfly’s on the track earlier this year. Nike made a specialty race shoe for the triathlete-turned-runner that she wore at the USATF Championships 10,000m. Jorgensen had dealt with achilles tendon issues, and was looking for spikes with a higher heel drop and a little more support. The custom shoe looked exactly the like 4%, but the outsole had 5mm spikes and a jagged plate toward the front.
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Other than Jorgensen, few distance track runners have considered the 4% a viable racing shoe. The shoe has largely been considered a marathon flat, and until recently, hasn’t been in the conversation as a short-distance shoe.
Researchers do point out that running on a track includes a lot of time spent turning. Despite the improvement in their subject’s times, the high stack height and limited traction of the Nike Vaporfly means that shoe could be underperforming on the track.