Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Makes People Run Faster, a New Study Shows

Eliud Kipchoge broke the world marathon record in the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% in September, and a new study uncovered why these sneakers make people run faster.

According to research conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder, the plush midsole is the winning component.

To find out what makes the sneakers different from other performance runners, according to a statement from the school, 10 runners who could run a 10K in less than 35 minutes participated in three treadmill trials. The athletes were wearing different sneakers: a Nike Vaporfly prototype, the Nike Zoom Streak 6 and the Adidas Adizero Adios Boost 2.

The research of then graduate student Shalaya Kipp and lead author Wouter Hoogkamer compared how running the biomechanics differed between shoes, and they noticed something that the 4% had that others didn’t.

“We found that it is not one magic thing that explains the metabolic savings in this shoe, but rather a combination of a whole bunch of biomechanical factors related to the [midsole] foam and the [carbon fiber] plate,” Hoogkamer said.

Hoogkamer further stated in the study that the carbon fiber plate stiffened the shoe, and the energy-returning cushioning was the biggest factor in getting people to run faster.

“When we measured the energy stored and returned in the plate, we found it to be minuscule,” Hoogkamer said. “Lots of shoes have foam midsoles and every foam has some spring action to it.”

A prior study from the University of Colorado Boulder found, according to a statement, that the cushioning in the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% returns 87 percent of the energy it takes in with each step.

“This shoe doesn’t give you energy but it prevents you from losing as much energy every time your foot strikes the ground,” Kram said. “That can make a big difference.”

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% is available in unisex sizing via Nike.com now and retails for $250.

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