Performance Enhancing Footwear

For the first time in running history, we can buy footwear that provides a performance advantage.

If you are interested in going faster, no doubt you are intrigued by the new footwear builds we are seeing and hearing about. It is claimed the shoes reduce energy consumption by up to 4% and are therefore faster.

To cut to the chase - we believe they are faster.

The 4% energy saving is widely accepted, however, it does not equate to a full 4% faster on the clock. Our personal experience is that they run 10 seconds faster per Km. And maybe more important than the 10 seconds is the psychological effect. Faster feels great, and when your stopwatch communicates a BP, the satisfaction is - so good.

For 50 years racing shoes were thinner with less. The promise was simple - make the shoe as light as possible, carry less, and go faster. And then boom...2018.

Since 2018, race records have fallen. In a lot of cases, they have been smashed.

  • In 2018, Eluid Kipchoge shaved 78 seconds off the men’s marathon record. A time that stood for four years.
  • Prior to Kipchoge's new record the best gain in 13 years has been 43 seconds, with most gains being less than 30 seconds. 
  • in 2019 Brigid Kosgei smashed the 16-year women’s marathon record by 1 minute 24 seconds.
  • In 2020, Kibiwott Kandie took 29 seconds off the men’s half marathon world record.
  • In 2021, Yalemzerf Yehualaw shattered the women’s half-marathon record going under 64 minutes.
  • Notably, in 2019 Eliud Kipchoge ran 42.2 km (a marathon) under two hours. This was an exercise in the possible. It was not a race. It is not a record.

Common to these shoes

  1. A high midsole.
  2. Curved carbon fiber plate embedded in the midsole.
  3. Rocker - a particular shaped bottom unit. 
  4. High toe spring - an increased upward bend at the front of the shoes.

SHOE SCIENCE view of how P.E.M's work

  1. The higher stack and midsole material creates spring mechanics. 
  2. The carbon fiber plate connects the heel to the forefoot and creates a long lever that helps move the foot from heel to toe faster.
  3. The rocker and high toe spring (when combined with momentum) help propel the runner forward.

The mechanical advantage is a sum of all 3. 

Let's dig into the geek

  1. Approximately 4% improved running economy.
  2. Less bend and negative work at the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joints.
  3. Less work, at the ankle joint.
  4. Increased time in ground contact.

Layers of a performance enhancing footwear
Let's dig into the geek

Approximately 4% improved running economy.
Less bend and negative work at the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joints.
Less work, at the ankle joint.
Increased time in ground contact.
Today there are multiple options available from all the major brands including New Balance, Saucony, and Asics.

We are recommending these shoes for fast tempo training, racing, and to help keep your legs fresh by mixing things up.

It can take a while to adjust to this style of shoes so please allow yourself a month or two.

While runners were the first to adopt this style of shoe, walkers are now seeking them. A walking gait enjoys the rocker and high toe-spring action.

We are happy to say that wearing shoes that offer some (or all) of these features, will help you run a little faster on the clock. They will certainly make you feel faster and are worth it from that point of view alone. Using a range of shoes is good for your body, makes it interesting, and is fun!

To view our extensive P.E.F range please go to Performace Enhancing Footwear


Craig is a podiatrist, runner, and has worked with the global French footwear brand, Salomon.