Eliud Kipchoge is the current world record holder for the marathon with an astonishing finishing time of 2:01:39, Usain Bolt is deemed the fastest person alive. setting the world record in the 100-meter sprint at 9.58 seconds. The times are undeniable; human beings are getting faster. The questions are how and why? Could our training shoes play a big part in the answer?
Engineering in the sports equipment world has come on dramatically in the last few years, but no item has seen more development than the trainer. Different sports require different technology to help athletes perform at their best: lifting shoes have had a solid, raised heel for half a century to allow the user to be more upright when lifting, tennis shoes have force reduction technology to eliminate impact when players hit a hard court. It is running shoes, however, that have undergone a huge evolution with emphasis now on different types of shoes for different gaits and distances. A marathon shoe's main function is to provide cushioning to prevent injury, whereas sprinting shoes are firmer for spring. Runners can be very loosely divided into two types: those that hit the ground with their heels first and those that land more on the toes and ball of their foot. The latter type needing more padding than the former, who will perform better in a 'barely there' type of shoe.
Students applying for Engineering might be interested to explore the different materials that are now used in making running shoes and the designs that also add to the effectiveness of the shoe. Applicants might like to come up with some stress tests to assess the functionality and wear of a shoe.