image credit Airiarunning.com
“Do you want to run faster?”
Who doesn’t? The new Airia One running shoe says it can make you faster.
A few months ago, the Swedish company contacted me because of my running background and my website www.strongerrunner.com to test-drive these new shoes. I said yes, so as a discloser, these shoes were given to me for free.
I was curious to see how these shoes would feel because, as you can tell from the video above, the design is quite different from a traditional running shoe. Their website (http://www.airiarunning.com) says that this shoe is completely designed for running that you can’t even walk in them.
How they are supposed to work:
“Our theory: a biomechanical difference affects each stride. Muscles are utilized in unique capacities, and since our shoes alter the muscular usage patterns with a unique design, you will be able to run faster and/or longer, especially at your maximum efforts.” ~Airia One website
After reading the proclaimed advantages of running in the Airia One, I was a bit skeptical but very interested to see how they would perform. When I first put them on my feet, my immediate reaction was “Whoa, these feel super weird.” The website was right, they are definitely not made for walking.
Here’s a brief history on me before I continue. I’ve been running for about 15 years, 9 of them competitively. I was prescribed orthotics to help with flat feet, a bunion (right foot) and an IT Band problem (right leg). I wore orthotics in my trainers, racing flats, spikes and day-to-day shoes. After I stopped competing (2007), I weaned myself off my orthotics and was conscious of changing my running stride from mostly heel striking to forefoot or mid-foot striking, even on slower paced runs. I also started running in Nike’s first edition of the Nike Free. After some time, I built up my foot strength and am now completely free of my orthotics. I now prefer running in a lower profile shoe. My current favorite running shoe is the Mizuno Hitogami. Read more about it here http://www.mizunocda.com/running/mens/running-shoes/neutral/wave-hitogami.
So, having said that, with my change in running gait and foot strength, I was really interested to see the Airia One in action. Last side note, I’ve tried Newton running shoes (the running shoe with the lugs that also promote a mid-foot strike) at a shoe store only once, so I’m not able to comment on the similarities/dissimilarities between these two brands.
In my first run, it took me about 15-minutes to get used to them. They totally forced me to run on my mid-foot. My left foot felt fine, but my right foot felt a bit off (because of my bunion). I’m conscious enough to keep my leg tracking straight, but noticed in a slow motion video of me running (incline 1, speed 20.0 on a km-mode treadmill) that I over pronate on my right foot in the Airia One (additional expert commentary is welcome!). From the rear view you can see my left ankle also over pronates. This irks me because it could lead to an overuse injury due to poor running mechanics.
I’ve included a video of me running in the Mizuno Hitogami as well for comparison sake. In the Hitogami, you can see (in my opinion) optimal pronation in both feet/ankles.
Mizuno Hitogami vs Airia from Jon-Erik Kawamoto on Vimeo.
Anyway, I tried the shoes on concrete, gravel and grass. I ran a few easy runs (60% max heart rate) and also did an interval workout with them. The faster running did feel a bit smoother compared to the slower paced running. However, in all my runs, my right foot never felt right. I felt that these shoes exacerbated my bunion issues.
What I liked:
-the promotion of a forefoot running gait (and that’s about it sadly enough)
What I didn’t like:
-right foot felt weird the entire time while the left foot felt “normal” (if my right foot was more like my left (no bunion) I might have enjoyed the ride a bit more)
-right big toe joint felt a unique stress that is absent in the Hitogami (perhaps my lack of big toe joint extension – because of my bunion – was really challenged in the Airia One)
-the shoe felt a bit heavy (US size 9.5)
-the price seems expensive, so I’m curious to see how many runners would actually purchase this shoe (even though my pair was free) vs a pair of Newtons