Super Shoes: Perspective For Those Who Believe It Is Not The Shoes!

Super Shoes On Athletic Performance

As we all know, there has been much debate, argument, even anguish over the effect of what is now called the “super shoe” on athlete performance. Here’s our take on super shoes and a little perspective for those who believe it is not the shoes!

A bit like barefoot running, the discussion has become quite polarising, especially in relation to those who insist these shoes are a form of cheating, and those who maintain that something as simple as a piece of equipment could not be solely responsible for athletic performance gains.

Oh.. for a return to good old fashioned racing!

The chap on the left of the photo demonstrating impeccable running form by running in a beret.. style personified!


With this in mind, we thought it might be pertinent to package it all together and outline the facts without fear nor favour.

Full disclosure though, here at Bartold Clinical, we do NOT believe the new ‘super shoes’ represent any form of cheating, after all they have been declared legal by World Athletics so how can they be, and, we also believe that yes indeed, the shoe alone can make that performance difference!


OK.. so this is what you need to know…. and apologies once more because we will ONLY discuss the Nike product here because it is the only one with real data. But, it is quite somebody of data. Here we go…

Since 2018, there has been an unprecedented number of athletes breaking world records in long-distance running races.

  • In 2018, Eluid Kipchoge shaved 78 s off the men’s marathon record that stood for four years (and the previous best performance gain of the past 13 years had been 43 seconds, with most gains from 2003-2018 being less than 30 seconds)
  • in 2019 Brigid Kosgei smashed the 16-year standing women’s marathon record (by 1 minute 24 seconds)
  • Kibiwott Kandie stripped 29 seconds off Geoffrey Kamworor  men’s half marathon world record in December 2020
  •  In 2020 Ababel Yeshaneh broke the women’s half-marathon record (by 29 seconds)
  • Perhaps most notably, in 2019 Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run 42.2 km (a marathon) in under two hours

These time improvements are completely unprecedented in the history of modern distance racing.

Ababel Yeshaneh goes ballistic to strip almost 1/2 minute off the women’s half marathon world record in Doha, Qatar

One thing that all of the athletes above have in common, with the exception of Kandie (Adidas Adizero Adios Pros), in addition to being exceptionally well trained and talented runners, is the shoes they ran in. The Nike Vaporfly 4% shoe was first released to the public in 2017 with new iterations such as the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% and Nike Alphafly NEXT% released since.

Kibiwott Kandie demonstrates there are other brands in the super shoe “arms race” by breaking the World Half Marathon record, in an extraordinary 57:32 in a pair of prototype Adidas Adizero Adios Pros


A recent study examined the finishing times and racing shoes of the top 50 male and 50 female runners from the World Marathon Major series in the 2010s — before and after the introduction of new Nike shoe models (4%, NEXT%, Alphafly, and other prototypes; herein referred to as neoteric Nikes).

Data for racing shoes were available for 3,886 of the 3,900 performances recorded at the four annual marathons in Boston, London, Chicago, and New York.

  1. In full cohort analyses, marathon finishing times were 2.0% or 2.8 min (138.5 ± 8.1 min vs. 141.3 ± 7.4 min, P<0.001) faster for male runners wearing neoteric Nikes compared to other shoes.
  2. For females, marathon finishing times were 2.6% or 4.3 min (159.1 ± 10.0 min vs. 163.4 ± 10.7 min, P<0.001) faster for runners wearing neoteric Nikes.
  3. In a subset of within-runner changes in marathon performances (males, n = 138; females, n = 101), marathon finishing times improved by 0.8% or 1.2 min for males wearing neoteric Nikes relative to the most recent marathon in which other shoes were worn, and this performance-enhancing effect was greater among females who demonstrated 1.6% or 3.7 min improvement (P=0.002).
  4. These results demonstrate that marathon performances for world-class athletes are substantially faster wearing neoteric Nikes than other market-leading shoes, particularly among females.

And.. that’s what we have to date… dems the facts Jack!



If you really want to expand your knowledge and education, gain CPD points, stay up to date with athletic footwear, and give yourself that clinical advantage, check out our acclaimed books and courses.

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The Masterclass is the recorded version of the live event that has sold out all over the world… Now you can watch it whenever you like from the comfort of your home or office, and, as many times as you like!


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Written by

Simon Bartold

Bartold Clinical


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