In 2017 Nike introduced a new marathon running shoe that reduces metabolic rate by 4%. Since then, many distance-running records have been broken by athletes wearing these shoes and successive models. The shoes feature a carbon-fiber plate embedded in a high stack midsole consisting of a compliant, highly resilient foam. Even though by now, virtually all running brands have released their own marathon racing shoes combining stiff plates and bouncy foams, for many the use of carbon fiber plates in running footwear is controversial and carbon fiber plates are often labeled mechanical doping. But, how much do carbon fiber plates contribute to the metabolic savings reported? What is the role of the foam? What are the metabolically optimal plate and foam properties, and how do they depend on body mass, running style and running speed? Furthermore, while we are trying to find out what the metabolically optimal stiffness properties of running shoes are, can we leverage the methods developed and insights gained to improve gait symmetry in individual post-stroke or with Parkinson’s Disease?
Wouter Hoogkamer, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he runs the Integrative Locomotion Laboratory (UMILL). He uses a comprehensive approach to study human locomotion, integrating neurophysiology, biomechanics and energetics. Dr. Hoogkamer’s work covers the full health spectrum, from gait neuromechanics in individuals with cerebellar damage to running energetics in sub-elite marathon runners. His work on running shoes, cooperative drafting and course design might have played a tiny role in how Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour marathon barrier. After obtaining master’s degrees in Civil Engineering and Human Movement Sciences in the Netherlands, he lived in Belgium (Ph.D.) and Colorado (post-doc). Dr. Hoogkamer is passionate about mentoring students. He run-commutes most days of the week and hopes to (ever) run a sub 2:30h marathon (he might need better running shoes to achieve that).