Heel striking in a cushioned shoe with a 10mm drop and he still managed to break the world marathon record!

If you have been following all the propaganda and rhetoric of recent years, then Dennis Kimetto should not have been able to run 2:02.57 to knock 26 seconds off the world marathon record a few days ago in Berlin … go figure! I have held off for a few days from commenting here (been busy commenting on Facebook though!) waiting to see the response in social media and the blogosphere to this run.

There has been plenty of good analysis on his run; for eg see Roger Robinson’s account at Runners World, so no point litigating those issues again.

Of relevance to this blog here are 3 points I want to raise:

Heel Striking:
He did this heel striking (see his images at Photorun.net). All the rhetoric and propaganda from the fan boys, running cults and bandwagons is that heel striking is evil and uneconomical. If it is so bad, how come Dennis Kimetto was able to run as fast as he did to break the world record? We already know that plenty of elite runners heel strike when running fast. Plenty of other elite runners also forefoot and midfoot strike when running fast. We know from the plethora of running economy studies that some have shown that heel striking is more economical and some have shown that midfoot/forefoot striking is more economical. What is obvious from all that research is that the best foot strike pattern for running economy is probably subject specific. There is probably no one systematic best foot strike pattern. If anyone is to claim that heel striking or midfoot/forefoot striking is more economical, then they are making it up and guilty of cherry picking. Obviously, the heel strike pattern that Dennis Kimetto used was probably the most economical for him.

POSTSCRIPT: I based the claim that he was heel striking on photos at Photorun.net and some that they have but have not listed yet in which it appeared that he was heel striking. Now I have seen the video below from Berlin in which he is clearly midfoot striking, so the above comments need to be interpreted in that context (BUT, the comments below still stand!).

Cushioned Shoes:
Dennis Kimetto did his world record run in cushioned shoes, the Adidas Adios Boost 2’s (with Adidas’s Boost technology for cushioning and energy return). According to the fan boys, running cults and bandwagons, cushioned shoes are evil. The second place runner at Berlin, Emmanuel Mutai, who’s 2:03:13 was also under the previous world record was also wearing the Adidas Adios Boost 2’s. In fact, the five fastest marathons ever run have been done in the the Adidas Adios Boost’s! Obviously there is a sponsorship deal in place with these athletes, but they could all run pretty fast in a shoe that is cushioned. We have all seen the prediction that I addressed here that the first 2hr marathon will be run barefoot. Given that the fastest guys are wearing a cushioned shoe (and no barefooter has yet gone past 2:15), it is looking less likely that this is going to happen. In my discussion of the 2hr marathon, I discussed research that has shown cushioned shoes are more economical than barefoot, but also noted the subject specificity of that research. I also commented on the prediction that the 2hr marathon is more likely to be run in cushioned shoes that has the amount of cushioning tuned to the specific individual to get the subject specific response right (and in some that might be no cushioning). Presumably the Adidas Adios Boost 2’s have the right amount of cushioning and energy return specific for Dennis Kimetto.

10.4mm drop (forefoot/rearfoot differential):
The Adidas Adios Boost 2’s have a 10.4mm drop and according to the fan boys, running cults and bandwagons anything other than a small or zero drop is evil, yet the five fastest marathons ever have been done in a 10.4mm drop shoe. I previously reviewed the evidence for a specific drop in a running shoe; there was no evidence and all that was driving the concept of zero drop was the use of the natural fallacy. That does not mean that there was anything wrong with zero drop, but neither does it mean that there was anything wrong with a 10mm drop either. There really can’t be anything wrong with a 10mm drop if such fast marathons are run using a shoe with it. I speculated in that discussion on drop that the best drop is probably like the foot strike pattern and amount of cushioning – it is probably subject specific and there is no systematic best drop for all. Presumably the 10.4mm drop in the Adidas Adios Boost 2’s was the right subject specific drop for Dennis Kimetto.

As always: I go where the evidence takes me until convinced otherwise,  and the anecdotes of the five fastest marathons is not data, but what they did can be interpreted in the context of the evidence and be used to poke fun at the fan boys, running cults and bandwagons.

Last updated by .

, , , ,

26 Responses to Heel striking in a cushioned shoe with a 10mm drop and he still managed to break the world marathon record!

  1. patrick voo September 30, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    thanks for posting this craig! i agree with all of your observations save for one – i’m not convinced that kimetto is a heel striker. the pics from photorun.net are inconclusive at best – and having watched both of his berlin outings, his chicago win and some of his pacing duties from london this year, i’m inclined to believe that by the time that his foot contacts the ground under his COG he is mid-foot striking. this highlight video provides some decent viewing angles of his stride: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0d5qwHcilU.

    • Craig Payne September 30, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

      I see him heel striking in several of the photos at photorun.net. They have more photos on him heel striking from Berlin that are not yet on their site.

    • blaise Dubois October 1, 2014 at 4:10 am #

      you right! I don’t think he heel stike either… or it’s very subtile (very low foot-ground angle).

  2. Mike Casper September 30, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    Great summary, Craig. One still has to wonder if Dennis Kimetto might be even faster with a different foot strike.

  3. blaise Dubois October 1, 2014 at 4:00 am #

    Hi craig,
    Some comments on your comment
    ” Obviously, the heel strike pattern that Dennis Kimetto used was probably the most economical for him.”: maybe……

    “Presumably the Adidas Adios Boost 2’s have the right amount of cushioning and energy return specific for Dennis Kimetto.”
    “Presumably the 10.4mm drop in the Adidas Adios Boost 2’s was the right subject specific drop for Dennis Kimetto.”

    Sorry but Dennis Kimetto didn’t choose his shoes. This pseudo racing flats are imposed to most of the kenya guys that work to beat the WR.
    – Is the amount of cushioning is the best for performance? We Don’t Know!! (maybe… according to the only 2 little studies in that topic: Franz-2012, Tung-2014)
    – Is the rigidity (high) in the best for performance? WDK!!! (maybe… according to the only one little study in that topic: Roy-2006)
    – Is the drop in the best for performance? WDK!!! (NO study on that… Presumably a negative effect if the drop increase the braking phase)
    – Is the the best weight for performance? We know clearly that we can do a lot better (probably more than 1 other minute can be win for him… theoretically… (2013-Sobhani, 2012-Perl, 2012-Kram(L), 2012-Handson(L), 2012-Franz, 2011-Hanson, 2011-Jenkins(R), 2008-Divert, 2009-Bonacci, 1985-Burkett, 2009-Squadrone, 1994-Flaherty, 1986-Jones, 1985-Martin, 1984-Frederick, 1981-Rlston, 1979-Catlin, 1969-Soule)

    Conclusion : NO… it’s not the best shoes for him… He have probably no idea of what he wears in his feet… he didn’t try other type of running shoes, to know if it was better (except heavier running shoe for training)… the commercial influence is the main reason why he runs (and other very fast runners in the world run) with that… He beat the WR just because he was enough in shape to run the WR… even with a shoe that slow down his time 🙂


    • Michigan Biomech October 1, 2014 at 4:12 am #

      Regardless if he was forced to use those shoes by the sponsor or he made a choice to use those shoes, he still broke the world record running in them. That speaks for itself and no further debate is needed.

      To say he was forced to use the shoes is insulting to the intelligence of Dennis Kimetto and quite offensive.

      I see a lot of post hoc rationalization going on from what CP keeps calling the fan boys to try and save face.

      • Ellen October 1, 2014 at 6:50 am #

        @ Michigan Biomech. You say: “That speaks for itself and no further debate is needed.” It might speak for itself, but it doesn’t say or mean anything. It only proves Dennis Kimetto can run the WR in these shoes, not about if he would have run the same/better/worse in different shoes, so debate is possible, but no-one can conclude anything for sure, until Dennis Kimetto runs in different shoes and does the same/worse/better in similar conditions. And do so multiple times, consistantly.

    • Runner October 5, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

      Do you really think that he did not choose the shoes he run in Berlin? Why would he be so unprofessional? At least all national level runners that I know of, and those that get free shoes from Adidas / Nike, choose the running gear that suits best for their purposes – and yes, they test those in countless mileage before the race. That’s why some run marathons last fall in Adizero Adios 2 and not Adizero Adios Boost…

    • emmbee October 9, 2014 at 1:45 am #

      Do you have any evidence for your claim that a world-class distance runner has given no thought to his choice of shoes? I mean, seriously, without evidence, you expect us to believe that a guy who makes his living through running gives less thought to his shoes than your average middle-aged hobby jogger?

      • Ellen October 13, 2014 at 8:38 am #

        Yes, because the hobby jogger doesn’t get sponsorship deals and the world-class athlete does and could be forced to wear certain shoes, if the sponsorship deal entails such. Don’t be naive in thinking they do have a choice, but don’t be thinking they have no choice at al either. It’s probably open to some discussing and negotiating.

  4. dingle October 3, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Craig Payne and a big dollop of anecdote, confirmation bias and wishful thinking. I expect Kirby will be along in a minute to back up all the facts……

    It just goes to show that Craig can’t actually spot how someone runs despite all his rhetoric. Put up some footage showing him heelstriking . Can’t find any Craig? That’s because you are biased and only tell half the story whilst condemning wholesale a group of people who don’t conform to your views.

    Enjoy the link …….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihRsq0iGjn0&feature=youtu.be

  5. Paul Moyse October 6, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    I’m not a fan of minimalist shoes for everyone, but I don’t see the heel strike pattern you’re talking about. Even on the Photorun link two of the photos show some heelstrike, but the majority are showing a midfoot strike pattern. Early on in the race you see 5 of the top eleven runners wearing the same shoe, but then again those individuals are also wearing Adidas singlets and shorts. I’m sure their sponsor pays/suggests/demands that they wear specific clothes or shoes to assist in their marketing of a product.

  6. Mark Cucuzzella October 6, 2014 at 7:26 pm #


    these are “straw man arguments”. His form is perfect no matter what part of foot engages first. and with a heel in the way it will touch the ground first at times. Marathoners use different strategies to keep speed w fatigue. Trust me, i have run over 100 in under 2:50, most under 2:40, and at least 30 under 2:30. and at 47 still run under 250.
    and watch this video from sagital view

    from a “fan boy”….whatever the heck that is


  7. simon bartold October 7, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    Just a little technical point.. it is impossible to make any realistic judgement about Kimetto’s footstrike pattern, if that even matters, from video shot at 25 frames per second.. which is what this video is shot at.. at best. And.. there is no such thing as ‘perfect form”. There is only running… and running technique, and it will be different for every single athlete for all sorts of different reasons!

  8. dingle October 7, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    Why can’t you judge from a video at 25 fps where the foot contacts the ground? What utter tosh. Don’t tell me……..you run a gait lab and only you can judge a footstrike using a 300fps camera and maybe some little dots stuck on to people or a target board behind them.

    • simon bartold October 8, 2014 at 12:45 am #

      err.. you can’t judge it because you can’t see most of the frames..if you can’t see most of the frames you can’t see where the foot strikes the ground.. which means you are guessing.!!. and no.. I don’t own a gait lab.. and real gait labs don’t use target boards

  9. dingle October 8, 2014 at 2:51 am #

    You can’t see most of the frames?….. So if filming at 25fps I can’t see how many of those frames?

  10. dingle October 9, 2014 at 5:48 am #

    Exactly. Read your own comments. What frames can’t I see if I film at 25fps? I can see all 25 frames of each second and some of those frames show the position of the foot contact and loading.

  11. dingle October 9, 2014 at 5:48 am #

    Exactly. Read your own comments. What frames can’t I see if I film at 25fps? I can see all 25 frames of each second and some of those frames show the position of the foot contact and loading.

  12. michael1960 September 20, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    Adidas Adios Boost 2 shoes are not “cushioned.”

    • Craig Payne September 20, 2015 at 7:19 pm #

      “Boost” –> energy return foam –> that is cushioned!

      • michael1960 September 28, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

        You’ve clearly never worn them. Adidas Boston’s have more “cushion,” but to call them cushioned shoes in the same category as actual cushioned shoes is just wrong.

  13. gezza October 12, 2015 at 4:36 am #

    Just a quick message regarding Dennis Kimetto not being able to choose his own racing shoes.
    I was lucky enough to work with Adidas for three years in New Zealand fitting their sponsored rugby players with their on and off field shoes.

    They were presented with a selection of choices and although our assessment influenced their choice, they could ultimately choose which ever boots and running shoes they wanted.
    I really don’t believe this would be any different for Kimetto

  14. hans October 15, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    countless variables exist in running shoes (heel drop, flexibility ratio rear/mid/forefoot, stack height, toe box width, etc, etc.

    chasing the right criteria in determining what shoe is right for you leads to never never land.

    your choice of shoes will depend on the fool which is your foot. It will want to wear what it is used to wearing (cushioned or not, flexible or rigid, etc).

    In addition each foot is structurally different. Your choice of shoes will also depend on terrain, speed, distance, running volume, intensity, etc.

    The minimalist debate instead should focus on getting your feet to think outside the box. If you are a minimalist you should own a pair of motion control shoes. A stability shoe runner should own a minimalist shoe.

    Keep your feet guessing what you are going to buy next.

    My clients to best with this shoe picking philosophy. Kimetto has run barefoot half his life. How’s that for variety?

Leave a Reply to Ellen Click here to cancel reply.