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Supershoes: A New Era Of Running Technology

The era of supershoes is upon us.

Running shoe technology is ever-changing. There's always something new around the bend. However, few changes have been as paradigm-shifting as the advent of "supershoes." 

What Are Supershoes?

  • To be categorized as a supershoe, a running shoe needs two things: 1) Fancy foam cushioning that's more lightweight, resilient, and bouncy than traditional cushioning. 2) A rigid, non-foam plate inside the cushion which runs full-length or more than half the shoe's length through the forefoot. It's important for a supershoe to have both of these parts. Running shoes have been incorporating plastic plates for a long time (Mizuno and On, for example). Plus, brands are always trying to get their hands on the latest lightweight, durable cushioning with the most energy return (aka "bounce"). But shoes that have BOTH dazzling cushion and a stiff plate are relatively new.  Though perhaps not as new as you've been told. 

How Long Have Supershoes Been Around?

Many sources use many words to make arguments about this, but what is generally agreed on is that research labs were testing full-length, carbon fiber shoes in the early 2000s. The evidence for improved running efficiency wasn't utilized until later, and didn't hit the mainstream until 2017.

Nike was the first to popularize supershoes with their carbon-plated Vaporfly 4%. The "4%" represented the average improvement in running efficiency that test runners showed while running in the shoe. Sadly, nearly 100% of runners felt like the shoe was useless after one race (and sometimes one run). 

Supershoes Of Today

Since 2017, almost every running shoe brand has come out with multiple iterations of different models of supershoes. Some are illegal to race in, some have barely changed, and some are touted as not exclusively race day shoes. 

If you look at the winner of any major race, from 5k to marathon (and beyond), you'll see supershoes.

How Do I Pick A Supershoe?

It's crucial to understand that you do not need a supershoe.

However, if you've had consistent training and are trying to get a few seconds/minutes off of your PR, you should absolutely try supershoes! They're called "super" for a reason--running in them is like running on your own personal-sized trampolines. You need to get the right supershoe for you, though, or you may end up running slower.

Carbon Fiber Or Plastic?

Three materials are used in most supershoe plates: carbon fiber, nylon, and Pebax. Some folks will tell you that you should save your carbon fiber shoes for racing, or you risk getting injured. The jury is still deliberating on this, but brands have been quick to develop less rigid materials that provide a similar running feeling to carbon fiber. 

Saucony made it big with their nylon-plated Endorphin Speed supershoe. Nylon strikes a good balance of stiffness and weight compared to carbon fiber, and is a little cheaper. Hoka just released the Mach X, another "everyday supershoe" that uses a Pebax plate--a type of engineered plastic that is similar to nylon.  

Typically, a race day shoe will be carbon fiber (except for the Kinvara Pro!) and a shoe intended for everything including race day will be nylon, Pebax, or something I haven't heard of yet. That's one way to guide your decision, but trying the shoe on in-store is the very best way! 

Does RunnersWorld Tulsa have supershoes?​​

Yes, we do! 

We can fit you in race day and everyday supershoes. So many factors go into choosing the right shoe for you, especially with supershoes, and we know how to make sure the shoe is perfect for you and your goals. 

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