Super Shoes for Ultramarathons?

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Should you wear a super shoe for an ultra? Unless unless you are an elite runner, probably not.

1 What is a super shoe?

I will consider a super shoe to be extremely light, bouncy, and stiff. The use of a new type of foam called PEBA or Pebax is a key part of a super shoe. This foam is far lighter and far bouncier than previous foams. It allows for a midsole that is much thicker without any weight penalty. The bounciness returns a lot more energy than previous foams. This is then combined with a full length carbon fibre plate that adds stiffness and springiness. This combination produces a shoe that can be more than 4% more efficient than previous shoes.

2 Super shoes and running pace

My experience is that you don't get the benefits of a super shoe when running slowly. For me, there is a transition around 8 minutes per mile (5 minutes per kilometre) where a super shoe comes into its own. At a slower speed, a super shoe doesn't seem to give much benefit, and most people in most ultra races are running slower than that.

3 Super shoes and running surface

The Super shoe technology only seems to work on paved surface is. On trails or soft surfaces, you don't seem to get the energy return. I had a pair of running shoes with PEBA foam (but no Carbon fibre plate) resoled with a trail outsole. I found that there was no benefit on the trails from the advanced foam, though on runs change between road and trail there was still a worthwhile benefit on the road sections.

4 Super shoes and ankle stress

I've found the thick midsole and squishy foam make super shoes unstable when walking or running slowly. Unless you're a fast enough runner to be keeping up and continual brisk run, a super shoe probably won't help you in an ultra.

5 Super shoes and fatigue

Towards the end of 30 mile (50 km) runs I've found that super shoes don't seem to give me the same benefit. I suspect this is mostly because I've adapted to the Super shoe so that it feels normal. Most of my running is not done in super shoes, so i suspect i am still getting the benefit, I'm just not feeling it the same way.

6 Conclusion

I feel that for most runners, a super shoe is not going to help on an ultra. If you're a fast runner on a road ultra, they might be an advantage. They might also help on a trail ultra that finishes on a road, but again, only if you are quite fast.