Since the vent of the Nike Super-shoes around 2016 I have come to two conclusions based on my knowledge and experience around running footwear & biomechanics:

1. Firstly, I wish they were around back in the day so that I could have tried them. I think they would have suited my running biomechanics as a forefoot runner (Slightly lateral subtalar joint axes with forefoot equinus) as a young athlete.

Super-shoe generally have three key features:
a) A specialist midsole material i.e. Nike PEBA (polyether block amide)
b) A rocker shaped forefoot midsole;
c) A full-length carbon plate sandwiched between the midsole material.

2. Secondly, I am now of the opinion that Super-shoes will either ‘make you, or could even break you’, depending on a number of individualist factors like your biomechanics (e.g. medially deviated subtalar joint axes & hypermobile ankle) & body mass etc. They would ‘break’ me nowadays.

Although I would have tried them back in the 1980’s when I was an athlete, I would certainly not run in them now. For me now as a slower recreational runner they would create a greater injury risk especially with my history of Achilles tendinopathy from 50-years of forefoot running. I store less elastic strain energy (ESE) in my Achilles so my body’s ‘self-tuning mechanism’ can fail from time-to-time every few months (Holt & Mayfield et al, 2023).

Although, like you I am passionate about innovation in sport and want to see further, faster, higher athletic performances, I am also equally wary of the whole Super-shoe concept. The public seem to have embraced them without considering their reliability and validity especially when it comes to stability. I believe that they were made to suit a small group of elite athletes. Indeed, they were designed around a few specific individuals like Kelvin Kiptum, Eliud Kipchoge, Brigid Kosgei ,Tigst Assefa (Wearing adidas Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 racing shoes) who at times can be seen sporting the prototypes in major fast-course marathons like Berlin. When these athletes are seen taking chunks out of World records (Berlin, Sept 24 2023 – Ethiopia’s Tigst Assefa shattered the women’s marathon world record, lopping off more than two minutes from the previous best to clock an official time of 2.11.53) it triggers a buying frenzy and everybody and their dog rushes out to buy a pair for their own version of the running dream often ending in disappointment. There appears to be an increased risk of certain injuries e.g. Navicular stress response and Achilles tendinopathy with Super-shoes (Tenforde & Hoenig et al, 2023). My observations are that unless you run extremely quickly in these shoes and reduce the ground contact time by running forefoot, the shoe has time to distort and collapse especially if you run slower and heel-to-toe, which increases the pressure:time integral per step. In other words, gravity and Newton’s 3rd have a field-day with your rearfoot mechanics.

Although there is evidence that in some individuals running efficiency is improved by reducing Vo2 Max by as much a 4% in some Super-shoe (Nike Alphafly), this isn’t the case for the average club runner and in all Super-shoes (Joubert DP & Jones GP et al, 2022). The collapse of the rearfoot will slow you down as you use energy in unwanted muscle activity attempting to re-supination the foot after a prolonged and inefficient pronation phase.

I always advise my patients & clients to keep it simple and think in ‘first principle terms’. I often tell them that I use ‘minimal intervention for maximum effect’.

Consider these two real-world scenarios as an aid when considering your shoe choice:

Elite-athlete + Super-shoe + Uninjured + unknown factor = World-class potential

Weekend warrior + Super-shoe + injury history to Achilles & Ankle + unknown factor = Increase injury risk

“Shoe innovations come and go but your own intrinsic inherent strengths and weaknesses are a here to stay. Listen to your intuition and body – not the marketing hype. The secret to great running is to fit the all your running variables around your own individual needs and don’t try and fit a square shape into a round hole when it comes to running shoes”.