Our industry is full of science-based advancements that are helping runners go faster and farther with less injuries. Here are three to watch.
Rooted in runner science
It’s no secret that we are proud run nerds. We are obsessed with the body in motion, and our world leading researchers study running science so you can focus on the run without having to think about biomechanics.
At Brooks, we provide the latest and greatest in running gear, workouts, and research to help you achieve your best run yet. From our GuideRails technology that helps runners embrace their natural motion paths to the Aurora BL born in our advanced BlueLine Lab, our running gear is engineered by biomechanics scientists who work alongside runners. They listen to runner wants, needs, and feedback to develop some of the best gear on the planet.
We love to learn as much as possible about the run. To quench our thirst for knowledge, we decided to peek outside our own labs to get a better understanding of what’s next for our industry.
Here are three fascinating areas of research worth learning more about:
Ergogenic aids are tools athletes use, legal or not, to enhance performance. The term is used as as a catch-all for any performance-enhancing substance ranging from steroids to insulin and stimulants like caffeine or amphetamine.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was the hottest games on record. Temps got up to 94.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which was the highest ever recorded at the games. Pun alert: research in overheating is a hot topic. Heat can dramatically hinder performance in both amateur and competitive athletes.
How do Olympic runners handle that kind of heat? Researchers first evaluated whether it is more helpful to cool athletes before they compete or during the competition. A 2006 study published by the Research Institute for Sports and Exercise Sciences stated that "pharmacological ergogenic aids are discouraged due to likely side effects in cerebral function whereas behavioral measures, including precooling the body, have practical support.” The study argues that ingesting a pharmacological aid doesn't support an athlete's performance as well as precooling. They found that cooling during competition did not protect athletes from damaging effects of heat.
New Zealand’s Olympic athletes demonstrated this theory during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They used a heat chamber regularly leading up to physical activity. This helped the athletes better prepare and acclimate to hot, humid conditions.
Another study looked at the cooling effects of pre-exercise menthol use. In March 2022, The International Environmental Journal of Public Health demonstrated that athletes experienced a “higher relative power for longer durations with the addition of the menthol mouth rinse, compared to cold water or placebo. The use of menthol (0.1%) as a mouth rinse showed small performance benefits for short duration high intensity exercise in the heat.” And a study published by the Journal of Sports Science Medicine concluded that ingesting ice “may have attenuated the effect of heat and subsequently improved working memory during exercise in heat.”
Do you feel like you overheat on your runs? Suck on a peppermint candy or have a few ice chips before you run to see if that helps you keep you cool.
Artificial intelligence and run form
Someday, our robot overlords may decide they’ve had enough of us, but for now, artificial intelligence is doing some great things for humankind. From reducing human trafficking to fighting overfishing, AI is making its mark on our world in fascinating ways.
During the Tokyo Summer 2021 Olympics, Intel debuted 3D athlete tracking technology using standard video. This tech zeroes in on 22 locations on the body to create a digital skeleton. With this tech in place, it’s possible to track data on velocity, body angles, acceleration, stride length, and more.
This advancement in AI will help pro runners train better and smarter. Plus, this technology may trickle down to in-store gait analysis and in your home treadmills, too.
Shoes that prevent injuries before they happen
Running shoes have come a long way over the years. When running started to become more popular in the mid to late 19th century, shoes were made from rigid leather with flat bottoms. Spikes were introduced to make runners faster and improve the ability to handle different terrains.
Eventually, physicians started to pay closer attention to foot health. Before the mid-20th century, doctors typically treated foot issues without understanding what caused them.
This new understanding of biomechanics lead footwear designers and engineers to analyze how a shoe can best support foot function. Running can take a toll on the body. To reduce that toll, Marion "Frank" Rudy patented small gas-filled membranes fitted into the soles of running shoes in 1979. This was the first example of shock absorption in modern running shoes. The technology became hugely popular. By the 2000s, runners sought shock-absorption features, which was provided by a lightweight foam in the middle of the shoe or heel, depending on the shoe manufacturer.
Much of the innovation in running shoes is happening in the midsole. At Brooks, you can see this in our advancement of DNA LOFT, our softest midsole cushioning. There’s a reason runners love ultra-cushioned shoes: they defend your hard-working feet, legs, and body from the unforgiving concrete roads and sidewalks most of us run on.
The super soft feeling comes from the specific proportions of the foam, rubber, and air. EVA foam is a common material used in running shoe cushioning, providing softness at a relatively low weight. Blending the foam with extra air ensures that the cushioning stays lightweight, while the added rubber ensures durability. The result? Cushioning that absorbs impact and delivers super soft comfort mile after blissful mile. Those pesky pebbles and cracks in the road don’t stand a chance to good cushioning. DNA LOFT helps protect your feet by absorbing minor changes in the surface texture you run on. So how will running shoes look and feel in the near and far future? We can’t say exactly, but the next step (pun intended) in running shoe innovation will likely follow its current evolutionary path. Over time, we’ve seen that running footwear has developed alongside our better understanding of foot health. Future running shoe innovations should continue to unfold around injury prevention by working with the body’s natural motion.
Want to know what else is happening for the good of the run? Keep up to date with the Run Happy Blog, where you can read about the best running apps and more.
Interested in learning more about shoe innovation? Check out Brooks research: BlueLine Lab and find your perfect shoe using our Shoe Finder.