In the past year alone, running technology has made enormous leaps. Nearly every shoe company has a version (or at least a prototype) of a carbon-plated shoe, lots of runners have access to futuristic recovery products like massage guns, and a human being ran a 1:59 marathon. If all of that changed in roughly five years (from conception to execution), here’s a look at where we think running technology could be five years from now.
World Athletics is reportedly drafting a new rule limiting the thickness of a competition shoe’s midsole. Depending on how it is worded, such a rule could make the Nike Alphafly shoes illegal in competition. Our prediction is that the Nike shoe will remain legal but that within the next year, there will be a limit on a shoe’s stack height.
The carbon plate was once considered the Nike secret sauce, but upon further investigation, it seems that the foam is where runners are getting the real boost. In a 2018 Nike patent application, Believe in the Run reports that the extra built-up foam and two stacked chambers in the forefoot (which may be filled with air, fluid or foam or some combination thereof) are where the magic happens. The site refers to this arrangement as a “club sandwich” of cushioning, and compares the effect to that of a diving board.
With the Olympics fast approaching, this shoe likely isn’t going anywhere. But there will probably be a limit put on how high a shoe can go in the near future.
In 2019 runners saw the first track with a wavelight technology system leading the way instead of a human pacer. This track in the Netherlands has lights illuminating the inside rail at the desired pace.
This is wave light technology. It’s being used for the first time ever @FBKGamesHengelo tomorrow. As well as pacing some early events, it flashes entirely red for false starts, white for stadium records, blue for special effects
Do you like it @sportmoderator and @AndyKayEvents ? pic.twitter.com/eacEXjwQFx
— Geoff Wightman (@WightmanGeoff) June 2, 2018
Kipchoge’s pacing method at the INEOS 1:59 could easily be translated to the track. This would mean introducing a moving line floating in front of runners on the track as they race. This line would move at their desired pace and be much more reliable than an actual pacer. Another bonus would be that if someone wants to pass the pacer, they don’t have to go around the runner, they simply step over the line.
Consideration for aerodynamics
Relative to other endurance sports like cycling or swimming, running puts a significantly lower emphasis on reducing drag and improving aerodynamics.
In the next five years companies could certainly start putting more emphasis on speed suits for racing (which currently are limited to sprint events). We’re talking marathon speed suits, folks. Another improvement could come in the form of cars leading road races, acting as the ultimate draft.
Prize money in virtual racing
Zwift and Strava are two of the biggest platforms in endurance sport and they both exist virtually. Between runners meeting up on Zwift to “do their run together” and Strava users entering races (which they complete on their own time and submit results), the online running community is growing rapidly.
It wouldn’t be shocking if within the next few years there’s prize money for these efforts and professional (and non-professional) runners entering the virtual events.
The Diamond League will include two events: pole vault and 100m
Alright, we’re kidding. (But only kind of.)
In 2019 the league cut events that included some of the biggest stars: the 5,000m, the 200m and the 3,000m steeplechase. These events include runners like Emma Coburn, Noah Lyles and Shelby Houlihan. In a funny twist of fate, the Diamond League announced in December that its distance moment of the decade, as voted by fans, was a steeplechase race.
If it has already cut these major events, it remains to be seen how far it’ll go in the next five years.