Grab your trainers - use science to run faster!

Grab your trainers - use science to run faster!

New trainers improve your running.

What do bubble wrap and a trampoline have in common? Scientists have combined the best functions of both to design new running shoes that help us to run faster and longer.

Did you know?

  • Every time you foot lifts off the ground, you use around 60 bones and 50 muscle groups just to keep you upright?
  • Each time your heel hits the floor it absorbs a pressure of around 8 times your body weight?  That's why our heels have inbuilt cushions.

The faster we run, the more the pressure on the heels. The shock from the impact of the heel on the ground can travel up the body - potentially damaging the shinbones and knee joints. Harder surfaces, like tarmac, generate a greater impact than softer surfaces, like grass.

Feet walking

What do we want from a shoe?

Runners wear shoes to reduce the shock from the impact and to help them run longer distances without causing damage to the bones and joints. Shock-absorbing technology helps prevent injury and makes running shoes more comfortable.

How does shock-absorbing technology work?

New generation running shoes have shock-absorption technology in the heel and forefoot of the shoe. This technology uses two special types of foam rubber - we've called them A and B.

Trainers - new generation

Foam A is made up of millions of air pockets - a bit like bubble wrap. When shock is applied to foam A, the shock spreads through these air pockets and is distributed evenly across the foam. This means no single area is subject to the shock.  If you made a tennis ball from this foam material - or even bubble wrap - and tried to bounce it off a surface, it would not bounce at all. This is because the foam is good at absorbing shock.

This video demonstration compares a regular ping-pong ball against one made from a shock-absorbing material. Why don't you try it out at home? You can use a regular ping-pong ball and one wrapped in bubble wrap.

Foam B does the opposite of Foam A. It converts energy from the impact into propulsion, minimising energy loss. Think about how high you can jump on a trampoline - this is because the springs in the trampoline collect the energy and send it back towards your legs, making it easier for you to lift our knees higher with each impact.  Foam B does this too, which allows you to run or walk faster without expending additional energy.

Next time you visit a sports shoe shop, look out for all the different types of shoes available - a lot of science goes into making the most comfortable shoes!

By Zara Mahmoud

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