Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The first 100 shoes to cross the finish line of NYC Marathon

Somebody has actually gone to the trouble of photographing and identifying the first 100 runners to cross the finish line of the New York City Marathon and their shoes. (Bear in mind that the elite women had a head start of 30 minutes.)

Someone else has gone to the trouble of putting all the results in a spreadsheet opening up the possibilities for hours of geeky analysis. (Meb was wearing Sketchers!)

While it is not surprising to see the top male and female finishers shod in either Nike or Addidas due to sponsorship requirements, what did surprise me was that none of the other runners chose to run in what I would categorize as a "minimalist running shoe". It certainly appears to be the case that the shoes have less cushioning on average than those worn by the 50,000 runners in the chasing pack but we are still talking about more than a couple of centimetres of squishy-squashy soles.

The other striking observation (if you'll forgive the pun) is the number of heel strikers amongst the elite. But, if you look closely, there is a world of difference between the typical heel-striker below

and the one seen above. The key difference is in the angle of the shin which, in the second photo, is such that the knee joint is locked out (ouch!!) and the point of contact is well ahead of the centre of gravity leading to a braking force. In order to run like the person above, you need to have tremendous flexibility and strength in your ankles - you almost have to fight against the tendency of the shoes to encourage you to overstride. Conversely, from personal experience I can testify to it being even more injurious to overstride and land on your forefoot. Perhaps we should stop obsessing so much over heel strikers versus forefoot (or midfoot?) strikers and look first at shin angles. From the excellent new book Running Science:

It's a shame that the article didn't go as far as the first 221 shoes to cross the finish line of the NYC Marathon... :-)

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