This following post is a response to a recent question in the comment section of the post on training for a 3 hour marathon.
Here is the original comment:
“There is a lot of hype about people running faster marathons in the Nike Vapor Fly. Can a shoe help you run faster? Is it worth giving them a try to obtain a goal? Any recommendations regarding training for a sub 3 marathon using them.”
Yes, some shoes are certainly faster than others. Ignoring factors such as comfort and fit, in general, the lighter the shoe the faster and the more energy return the faster.
At the time of this writing, the Nike Vaporfly 4% appears to be the fastest running shoe available to the general public. How much faster? Nike claims 4% but it varies from person to person. There are probably some people that may not see much if any improvement in their race times and some that may see more than 4%. Take note that the world record for the women’s 100 mile run just got lowered by a whopping 7% by a woman wearing the Nike 4%. The only way to find out how much they help you is to experiment with them.
Are they worth trying them given the price tag of $150.00 for the Zoom Fly or $250.00 for the Zoom Vaporfly 4%? Those prices are not too far out of line compared to other top of the line running shoes. In the long run, the cost of the Nike may be even more as they lack durability and won’t last as long as other comparably priced shoes. For insight into durability, comfort, fit and performance, check out the reviews posted at: Running Warehouse and Nike (Zoom Fly) (Zoom Vaporfly 4%)
Comfort is probably a more important parameter when choosing what shoe to race and train in than speed – especially for long events. A shoe that causes you pain or injury outweighs any speed benefit. But if you are looking for the fastest running shoe available for long distance events, the Nike Vaporfly 4% appears to be it. The Zoom Fly is a close second being slightly different with less costly spring plate material.
Regarding marathon training using the Vaporfly:
Considering their cost and fragility, save them for race pace and faster training. Also, keep them limited to running on the road, track or treadmill. They are too fragile and unstable for trail running on rough and uneven surfaces.
Be aware that some sports science pundits have called for a ban of the Nike 4% because it gives an unfair advantage to those using them. They claim that the carbon fiber plate sandwiched in the thick foam sole constitutes a mechanical spring aid – a realistic claim.
The idea of using a spring plate in a running shoe to increase energy return has been around for decades. Nike is the first company to finally succeed in creating a viable commercial product utilizing this concept. By essentially taking a shoe with a thick midsole of very lightweight cushy foam (think Hoka Clifton 1) and embedding a stiff (but lightweight) spring pate inside the midsole, they stumbled upon a concept and combination of cushion and spring that really works. And we runners get to benefit from it!
Just remember, no shoe can do the work for you. You still have to train and put in the effort to run fast.