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#4 Debate: Type of running shoes for a marathon


Here is our fourth publication of a series of six on a debate on running shoes held at Université de Lausanne in Switzerland. See our first publication of this series for the rules of the debate.


Panel members (counterarguments): Boris Gojanovic, Eric Haefelin, Davide Malatesta, Grégoire Millet, Laurent Paonessa.


Question 4 of 6: Running shoes and performance: What is the basis for our recommendations?


TRC Position: When considering performance, the most efficient running shoe:


  1. is the lightest AND
  2. is the one providing adequate yet minimal protection from an environment to which the foot is not adapted AND
  3. is the one that minimally alters natural biomechanics.


Barefoot training (or with more minimalist shoes) increases running economy in the long term.  



  • Blaise: The average marathon runner (4:20:00), who runs with a 120 g shoe (minimalist competition shoe), rather than what over 90% of runners wear (traditional 350 g) would shave up to 15-20 minutes off his official time.
  • Grégoire Millet: We really need to look into this 15/20-minute argument… I don’t know where you got that from (he says with a grin)… the actual energy cost related to minimalism vs. maximalism (according to a study published last summer) was more in the vicinity of 1% to 1.5%...
  • Blaise: I want to read that article… we need to compare it to the other 14 articles that refer to differences that go as high as 5.4%! Even high-level athletes could shave 1 to 2 minutes offby running lighter.
  • Grégoire Millet: I still haven’t heard one single argument that would push me to run with minimalist shoes.
  • Blaise: That’s because you only run ultra-trails… you might think otherwise if you ran 10 km events. Wouldn’t you like to wear thinner and lighter shoes?
  • Grégoire Millet: Of course, as far as the weight of the shoes is concerned, we’re all on the same page.
  • Laurent Paonessa (retailer):… we have a small scale (to weigh shoes) at the store that we use more and more… for people looking for more performance.
  • Jacques Wullschleger (Moderator): which type of shoes would you recommend for overweight or older runners?
  • Boris Gojanovic: I’d go biking instead… you get injured running!
  • Blaise: We currently don’t know whether “heavier” people get injured more. What we do know is that overweight people suffer more from arthrosis of the knee. The best piece of advice I could give to overweight people who run or who wish to run would be to run with biomechanics that minimize stress on the knees. The best way to develop these protective techniques is to run barefoot… on small rocks (figure of speech to stress the importance of minimalism for these people; traditional running shoes offer no protection for the knees).
  • Davide Malatesta: maybe biking would be better…


My opinion (in hindsight)


It turns out that the article which Grégoire Millet referred to was on the slide showed. This Lussiana et al. study is far from outstanding and should be compared to all those other articles (2013-Sobhani, 2012-Perl, 2012-Kram(L), 2012-Handson(L), 2012-Franz, 2011-Hanson, 2011-Jenkins(R), 2008-Divert, 2009-Bonacci, 1985-Burkett, 2009-Squadrone, 1994-Flaherty, 1986-Jones, 1985-Martin, 1984-Frederick, 1981-Rlston, 1979-Catlin, 1969-Soule) which have already addressed the issue. They all came to almost similar results: each 100 g at foot level increases your O2 consumption by 0.7%-1%.


Brief review of the Lussiana et al. study:

Published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (Impact Factor: 3.214); 14 participants assessed; at very low speeds (10 km/h); participants had no prior experience with minimalist shoes; the minimalist shoes used had low absorption and were relatively heavy (188 g); the difference with their traditional running shoes was less than 150 g (300 g for both shoes); ... Conclusion: results from this specific study were a little under what could be expected considering the 0.7% to 1% per 100 g rule.


Explanation for the 15/20-minute argument:

Each 100 g on your feet increases O2 consumption by 1%, which translates into a speed reduction of 3 m/min approximately. In real time, during a marathon (in our case of 4:20:00), running with maximalist shoes weighing 350 g or minimalist shoes weighing 120 g, this amounts to the following: 230 g difference x 2 legs = 460 g = 4.6% of O2 = 13.9 m/min = 3,614 m/4:20:00 (at 6’09’’/km) = over 20 minutes… Hmm think about it :) That being said, even though O2 consumption is the main factor in performance, several other parameters will impact your time, such as muscle fatigue caused by shoes to which you are not used to! Next week, question 5 of 6: Running biomechanics: What is the basis for our recommendations?