How Many Heartbeats Can a Running Shoe Save?
From our perspective the running shoe business is too much about superficial trends and insignificant details and too little about well-researched and performance-driven product development. Therefore, we want to do what we can to pave the way for new ideas and methods. We are pleased to announce our new site www.saveheartbeats.run and the project that launches a new approach to involving the running community and creating improved knowledge about running shoe performance. Hopefully we also will be able to statistically establish one of the performance advantages we’ve seen for running in the Airia shoes – an improved running economy. This will be demonstrated by a lower heart rate response compared to heart rate when running in another pair of shoes.
More insight on shoe performance to runners around the world!
We’ve done years of testing of both our own Airia shoes and of running shoes from a huge number of manufacturers. One of our major conclusions is that there are larger performance differences between different brands, models and types of running shoes than reflected in the community discussions and general opinion of runners. To our surprise, the other brands do not do much to shed light on these aspects of running shoe construction and design. Not even the manufacturers of the shoes with really good performance in our tests. Why is that? That question is not up to us to answer but part of the explanation might be that it is quite complicated and costly to set up the kind of tests that are required to get quality data and significant results. But that wouldn’t be a problem for a global brand with a real determination, one might think?
For Airia Running, a company dedicated to developing and producing the fastest running shoes possible, it´s beneficial to have a broader perspective on running shoe performance within the running community. We hope to dedicate more attention from scientists and runners to what could make future running shoes even faster than today. So we are doing what we can to lead the way. The first project with this scope is “The Airia Heart Rate Test”, but we have more tricks in investigating different aspects of running shoe performance. Subscribe to our newsletter to get future updates.
Why a heart rate test?
The Airia shoes and concept is directed towards increased running speed. But from our years of R&D and field testing we’ve also gradually directed more interest to the running economy aspect of shoe construction. Quite logical of course. One aspect of a faster shoe is most certainly less energy consumption when running a given speed, compared to a slower shoe. We often get feedback from Airia runners that they have the feeling of easier runs with less fatigue with the Airia shoes compared to running the same pace with their regular trainers. At first we set out to examine this aspect in a more traditional oxygen consumption test in cooperation with GIH, the Swedish School of Sports and Health Sciences. But the results were inconclusive, mainly because the number of test subjects were too few. Remember our note on cost and complexity of these types of tests. We have been trying to create some sort of test that could investigate the same running economy aspects as the oxygen consumption test, but one that involves more runners with more ease. At some point the test protocol used in “The Airia Heart Rate Test” came to mind. It involved repeated treadmill runs with the same workload using different shoes. Even if it sounded simple and reliable, we naturally had to put in some real effort to check it out, both by our own running, and by a squad of test runners. The results seem quite solid and we have observed interesting differences between different popular trainers. We have also done a small pilot study where we compare the Airia 1.5 to the test subjects regular trainers of same weight or lighter (Promising Heart Rate Metrics for Airia 1.5 in First Pilot Study). All in all, the test protocol is manageable for us and hopefully for a lot of runners around the world. The Airia shoes seem to perform as well as we had expected. Now we are pretty curious to get started and see some interesting results revealed. At the same time we hope to involve a lot of runners and increase the running community perspective on running shoe performance.
The “Airia Heart Rate Test” project in brief
We have set up a central test site – www.saveheartbeats.run
This site allows test participants to read about the test and register to participate. For registered users there is an interface where you can upload and compare your own runs in different shoes. The front page displays a live report of the overall test progress and results. It is also possible to segment the data to do your own research.
Soon we will start to recruit runners to participate in the study. The site is open for all runners, both current Airia owners and people just interested in comparing their own shoes. To help reaching the needed number of test runs in Airia running shoes, will we select 100 willing runners to receive a free pair of Airia 1.5 in exchange for 4 recorded treadmill runs. The only pre-requisite to participate is that you are in possession of a sports watch that can record HR data and a chest HR strap (the non-strap watches are not good enough yet). Each test participant will do at least two 30-minute test runs in each shoe. All runs must be done on the same treadmill, with the same speed (about 10K speed), and with a similar procedure regarding warm-up, clothing, etc. After completing the test runs each participant will do his or her own data export and upload the data to the www.saveheartbeats.run site in the .tcx file format. Calculations from our pilot study show that we will need at least 50 participants to be able to make statistically significant conclusions, but we´re aiming for having a great deal more tests performed than that. The more tests performed, the better ability to break data down to different subgroups (running capacity, stride type, etc).
Are we sure the Airia shoes will come out on top? No, we can’t be sure of that. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have to put all of this effort into the project. But our years of shoemaking and extensive testwork give us a pretty good notion that we will do well. In the end, we will have some more bits and pieces of knowledge to add to the making of the next Airia model, which will be yet even better and faster.
So, if you are an engaged runner, a journalist covering the running shoe business, a sports gear geek or just someone who is, for some reason, interested in the performance of running shoes, please register for participation. Let your heart be the judge. Literally. And contribute to answering the question of “How many heartbeats can a pair of running shoes save?”.
CEO Airia Running