Study: Max Cushioned Shoes and VO2 Max

Triathletes seem to favor Hoka One One uber-cushioned shoes. Maybe it’s because of the endless hours of training many triathletes put in, or maybe it’s because of brand recognition: Ironman U.S. Series named Hoka its official shoe sponsor this year. Or maybe they just get a kick out of wearing brightly colored platform shoes.

I, for one, favor Altra as my max-cushioned shoe of choice. The heavily cushioned models, such as the Olympus (trail) and Torin (road), still look a little funny, but they have kept me on my feet and leave me feeling less beat up after a long trail run. And I love the zero-drop sole.

I’ve always wondered how all that cushion affects running economy. Does it make a difference if I’ve got a couple inches (I’m exaggerating) of foam under my feet versus the cushion of a slipper? Apparently, a few scholars wondered the same thing and conducted a study to find the answer.

Miles A. Mercer, Tori Stone, Jack Young, and John Mercer of University of Nevada-Las Vegas put 10 subjects in a pair of neutral running shoes (Adidas Prene) and a pair of max-cushioned shoes (Hoka Bondi 4). Over two days, the subjects ran on a treadmill at different speeds and inclines in the two different pairs of shoes. The result: the shoes had no influence on VO2 Max.

So the next time you head out in your uber-cushioned shoes, know that you’ll get the same workout as you would with a regular pair of shoes. However, if you’re doing speedwork or racing short distances, the weight of the shoe may make a difference.

Jack Daniels reported that for every ounce you shave off of your shoes, you save about .83 seconds per mile. When you’re chasing a PR, every .83 seconds counts! Go too light, however, and you lose some of the advantage because your body absorbs more of the shock, which costs energy.

Today I did my long run in my almost-worn-out pair of Olympus. Now I know that when I struggled up the hills in Redwood Park, it wasn’t the fault of the shoes!



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