Physical Therapists Using Clinical Analysis To Discuss The Art And Science Behind Running and The Stuff We Put On Our Feet

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The Monday Shakeout: Do Super Shoes Reduce Muscle Soreness? 
By Matthew Klein

In this week's Shakeout, Matt explores a question runners have reported on and off since super shoes have been in the market: do super shoes actually reduce muscle soreness, allowing us to run more? Matt looks at a recent study that helps provide some considerations.

Although many people who use super shoes often report decreased muscle soreness compared to traditional shoes after races and workouts, we are still unsure if they actually reduce muscle damage. Delayed onset muscle soreness refers to the muscular soreness that occurs in the hours and days after exercise. It is thought to be due to muscle damage and a variety biologic stimuli from disrupted muscle tissue (Kanda et al., 2013). Evidence has suggested that runners report reduced muscle soreness training in super shoes compared to traditional shoes (Matties et al., 2023). 

Matties et al's Study

In a great study by Matties et al., (Shout out to Justin and team for doing some cool research that all of us hoped someone would do), runners were followed over an 8-week training period. One group ran in Vaporflys and another ran in traditional flats. The study was interesting in that those who trained in Vaporflys reported far less soreness than those who trained in traditional flats.

There were two other interesting results that are worth mentioning. First, runners improved most in the type of shoe they trained in. Runners training in Vaporflys improved their running efficiency (economy) most in Vaporflys while runners training in traditional flats improved their running efficiency most in traditional flats. This suggest that due to the specificity of training principle, you need to make sure you train in the shoe you plan to be most efficient in on race day. However, runners who trained in the traditional flats improved their economy/efficiency most overall. 

Lessons Learned

Running economy/efficiency improvements come from a variety of places. There are cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary changes that occur as your body becomes more efficient at moving oxygen and nutrients to working muscles. There are also extensive neuromuscular changes at muscles improve their force output, the nervous system improves its efficiency in activation, tendons improve their ability to store and release energy and there is an improved overall tolerance to work. Much of the musculotendinous changes occur with hard work that causes muscle damage, which in turn the body uses as a stimulus to recover and get stronger/better. This in turn can cause delayed onset muscle soreness. So while we do not have direct evidence that super shoes can reduce muscle damage, we know they can reduce muscle soreness (for many but not necessarily all people), which MAY be a marker of muscle damage.

The next logical conclusion would be that training in super shoes don't make you as fast. Based on the above, training in super shoes makes you better at running in super shoes. Rather than comparing one to the other, I would suggest that timing is the most important lesson here. Early on in a training cycle, it may be beneficial to train in more traditional shoes in order to get greater economy and adaptive benefits when muscle soreness isn't an issue. Racing isn't usually a big priority early in a training cycle, so this may be the best time to make large gains. Later in the training cycle as key races and workouts come up, super shoes may be advantageous in order to recover faster and reduce muscle soreness. It is also advantageous to get used to and adapt to the shoe that you will be doing key races in, so switching to and learning how to run in this shoe type becomes more important the closer you get to races and/or your goal race.

More Research Needed (Anyone Need a Dissertation Topic?!)

Until we have solid evidence with muscle biopsies (which if someone has done please let us know), we are extrapolating a bit here. It does appear that super shoes may reduce muscle damage, but muscle damage in appropriate amounts is an important stimulus for improvement and adaptation to training. However, early research has suggested that there is a specificity of training component to these tools, so you do have to get used to and eventually train in what you plan to race in. So rather than choosing one over the other, in an optimal world, it may be better to start with traditional type shoes early in training and switch to super shoes as you start doing tougher/longer workouts to save your legs during the later stages of a training plan. 


Kanda, K., Sugama, K., Hayashida, H., Sakuma, J., Kawakami, Y., Miura, S., ... & Suzuki, K. (2013). Eccentric exercise-induced delayed-onset muscle soreness and changes in markers of muscle damage and inflammation. Exercise immunology review19.

Matties, J. R., & Rowley, K. M. (2023). A pilot study: effects of an 8-week training intervention in carbon-plated running shoes. Footwear Science15(1), S182-S183.


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Skratch Recovery, Coffee Flavor: Mental and physical boost post run. Coffee flavor is excellent and goes great straight into a fresh brewed cup
goodr Sunglases: Run in style with goodr's super fun sunglasses.
Feetures Socks: Massively grippy socks that will make you feel more one with the shoe
Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Water Bottle: Perfect for long runs when you need hydration in the summer
Trigger Point Foam Roller: Help get those knots out post-run and feel better for tomorrow
Theragun Massager: This small version is great on the go for working tired legs
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Chest Straps vs. Wrist Monitors for Heart Rate

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