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Faculty-student research team tests shoes, running economy

  • two people talking while one person runs on a treadmill in the Rec Center

Posted on October 12, 2018

Since the spring, Jordan Juzwiak, a senior majoring in exercise science, has spent hours monitoring runners on a treadmill to determine if the shoes they are wearing improve their running economy.

Juzwiak is working with Kyle Barnes, assistant professor of exercise science, and testing if a runner's oxygen consumption reduces depending on what shoes they wear.

Their research follows the work done by shoe giants Nike and Adidas to develop shoes for elite marathon runners to help them run a marathon in under 2 hours. At the Berlin Marathon in September, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge was wearing Nike Vaporfly shoes when he set a world record with a time of 2:01:39.

The shoes Juzwiak and Barnes use during testing — Nike Vaporfly 4% and Adidas Sub2 — are similar to what elite runners wear but are made for the mass market. 

Barnes said wearing Nike shoes does not necessarily mean a runner's time will be 4 percent faster. 

"We've found the shoes returned about 90 percent of the energy spent," he said. "The shoe is built with a special foam and carbon-fiber plate that helps propel people forward more efficiently than other shoes."

Juzwiak presented preliminary findings from their research in August at the Student Summer Scholars Showcase. As a runner herself, Juzwiak said this research project interested her. During testing, research subjects ran five-minute trials in each of the three models (Nike, Adidas, control shoe) while Juzwiak measured their oxygen consumption by using a metabolic cart.

"The Vaporfly makes for more of an easier run, you run more efficiently because of the makeup of the shoe," she said.

Juzwiak will continue collecting data and give a presentation at the Midwest Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine conference in November in Grand Rapids.

After graduation, Juzwiak plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy. She said participating as a Student Summer Scholar has prepared her well for graduate school.

"Being involved in this project has boosted my leadership and communication skills as well as my confidence as a student researcher in this field," she said.