At ARION we are on a mission to decode human movement. After a decade of research, six years of operation, and thousands of hours of recorded movement data, one thing has become very clear to us. Movement is exceptionally unique.
We all have diverse bodies, varied techniques, unique philosophies and personal goals. All of these elements heavily influence the way we move. Each contributing to our individual biomechanical profile, is what we call, your unique running identity.
To explore this, in this content series we will highlight that there is no such thing as the perfect running shoes. It all depends on your own completely unique biomechanics and your individual goals. We will be testing eight of the latest and greatest running shoes. Utilising our groundbreaking technology shows how one shoe can have two very drastic results on two very seemingly similar people.
We don’t review the shoes based on their general performance. We simply highlight the diverse results generated across different people. Each month we will put a new pair of shoes to the test before finally reviewing it all together with a final summary of our movement experiment.
As always, it’s the same conditions (treadmill), same shoe, same size, same pace, same distance, and very different results! Third up is the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2…
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next 2%
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next 2% is a neutral running shoe with a heel-to-toe drop of 8mm. The running shoe is known for its high level of cushioning, lightweight, and carbon fibre plate. The Vaporfly Next 2% has a redesigned upper that results in a softer, cooler design that fits needly around your foot.
1. The Runners
Let’s introduce our runners. Runner 1 is Manouk. She runs around once every two weeks for a longer run, and every week a couple of short runs to conduct research for ARION. Her preferred distance is around 5k with a pace between 5:15 and 5:30 min/km. A future goal for Manouk is to finish a quarter triathlon. She likes to run because she wants to stay in shape and doesn’t have time to take part in other sports.
Our second runner, runner 2 is Elzemieke. She runs around three times a week for long runs. Her preferred distance is around 5k with a pace between 6:15 and 6:30 min/km. A short-term goal for Elzemieke is to run a 10k race. Elzemieke likes to run because it clears her mind and to stay in shape.
For both runners, we will compare the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next 2% to a baseline shoe. This baseline shoe will be an average of how both runners run. For both runners, the baseline shoe is a neutral running shoe with a lower heel-toe drop and stack height (low mid-sole thickness). With this baseline shoe, Manouk is a forefoot lander and Elzemieke is a rearfoot lander. Manouk is neutrally balanced whereas Elzemieke uses her left foot a little more than her right. Both runners have an average cadence for a recreational runner and a relatively high stability profile with little variation in the foot placement with each step.
2. The Results
3. The Insights
Footstrike Y and X
When we take a look at footstrike it’s good to remember that a footstrike of 0% would indicate a foot landing that is as far as possible towards the heel, and a footstrike of 100% indicates the foot lands right at the tip of the toes. In our baseline shoe, we’ve already seen that Elzemieke is a rearfoot lander, landing her foot a little bit away from the back of the heel with a footstrike of 15.9%. On the other hand, in the exact same shoe, Manouk is very clearly a forefoot lander with a footstrike of 78.2% when wearing the baseline shoe.
With 8 mm, the Nike Vaporfly shoe has a relatively high heel-toe drop which often encourages runners to land more towards their heels. For Elzemieke we do indeed see an even more pronounced heel strike with 5.8%. Manouk also shifts slightly from 78.2% to 74.6%.
We can also look at how the foot is placed on the ground from the outside to the inside of the foot. This is referred to as Footstrike X, where 0% indicates the foot lands entirely on the inside of the foot and 100% entirely on the outside of the foot. Elzemieke who landed more on the outside of her foot in the baseline shoe (62.2%), now lands more centrally with the Nike Vaporfly (52.8%). Similarly, Manouk’s landing was more towards the inside of the foot with the Nike Vaporfly as compared to the baseline shoe with a Footstrike X of 74.8% in the Nike shoe and 80.8% in the baseline shoe.
A high heel-toe drop is often recommended to reduce loading on the Achilles tendon, ankle and foot, a philosophy that has also been supported by some published research studies. In line with the slight change in footstrike, for Manouk we see a slightly lower load of the foot and Achilles tendon. For Elzemieke we see a slightly heavier bioload when she ran in the Nike Vaporfly as compared to the baseline shoe.
Contact time and step frequency
The Nike Vaporfly is typically regarded as one of the best shoes to reduce the energy cost of running, but it may not have this beneficial effect for all runners. The findings of some studies suggest that longer contact times and lower step frequencies can in some cases be related to lower energy costs when compared between shoes.
For Elzemieke we see a slightly shorter contact time in the Nike shoe as compared to the baseline shoe (287 vs 299 ms), while cadence is slightly lower as it changes from 155 to 153 steps per minute. For both runners, the flight time substantially increased for example from 117 ms to 138 for Manouk and 88 to 105 ms for Elzemieke.
This means both runners spend less time on the ground, and more time in the air in the Nike shoes, suggesting a more reactive and potentially more efficient running style. Suggesting also that both runners have much more benefit (amongst other metrics and indicators) towards running efficiency with the Nike Vaporfly compared to the baseline shoe.
Movement is unique
If we step back from all the data insights, on a high level it seems that both runners shift slightly more towards their heel, which may be caused by the 8mm heel-toe drop of the Nike Vaporfly. Also, both runners decreased their contact time (less time spend on the ground) and increased their flight time (more time spent in the air) which suggests that both runners have much more benefit (amongst other metrics and indicators) towards running efficiency with the Nike Vaporfly.
The unique combination of your personal running characteristics and the available shoe technologies is the reason why at ARION, we focus on your unique running identity, combining your individual biomechanics with specific shoe technologies that bring you the biggest possible benefits.
Stay tuned as we continue to test another pair of the latest and greatest running shoes every two weeks and start to explore some comparisons between the different shoes that we test. If you want to discover your running identity visit your nearest HUB in one of our ARIONHUB stores to learn more.