Once the discussion moves past what shoes are good for running, which usually for a runner would mean the most comfortable, and reduce any chances of injuries, the next big question which pops up is, what next? Are there shoes which can make me go faster? There are a few established and upcoming brands which are looking at providing an answer to this question in different ways, and the new Airia One running shoe promises to do exactly that.
Airia Running is a Swedish running shoe company whose headquarter is located in Örebro, a small town in the middle of Sweden. Founded by Svante Berggren, runner and inventor, their new running shoe, Airia One, promises to help you run faster, and claims to be superior to any other running shoe on the market today when it comes to speed.
To quote Airia Running, “Everybody wants to achieve goals, be it the fastest mile in this run, my best 10k or a world record. Designed in Sweden, the Airia One is developed with this sole purpose. Airia One is so focused on delivering running performance that you actually can’t walk in them”. The Airia One is a result of more than two decades of development, and over 5,000 test runs.
I will repeat questions I found on Airia website on whether shoes can make you run faster:
- “No, only training can make you faster”
- “No, shoes are all the same. I just go for something comfortable”
- “No, you can’t buy success in running”
Of course, Airia team does not agree with any of above. I agree with them here. Training is of course crucial for any success, but just like there are several factors on the race day which define your success, like strategy, proper tapering, etc, I believe that the shoe technology has a playing space as well. There are simplistic factors, for example the shoe weight. The elites run in shoes which weigh less than half of what the regular trainers for most of the runners weigh, so we already know the shoe design has implications on speed. Another way to run faster is to improve efficiency by improving running form, another point which goes beyond simply training harder.
Airia’s Claim to Fame
So what does Airia promise from these new shoes? The first thing they claim is that Airia One will enable 8 out of 10 runners to run faster regardless of their current level or running style. Of course this comes with the rider that results vary from person to person, which effectively means that whatever they have designed works for a big majority of runners, and there is a minority (20% in this case) who are expected not to benefit, which I guess is fair, since there is so much diversity in every runners biomechanical running profile.
So, the question now is, how fast? Airia’s claim is as much as 7%. The numbers are backed by carefully monitored tests which Airia conducted, which put Airia Ones against the competition on an Indoor track with the test subjects doing 5K. So, we do have some ideal conditions being put in there, and I don’t have the detailed numbers from those tests which I would love to read some day, like details of the various tests which were done, and a plot of improvement numbers vs the number of runners who saw that. I would also like go back a bit and learn about the runners themselves a bit, what were their fitness levels, were they a mix of slow or fast runners. Was there a mix of pronators, neutral and under-pronators, basically a variety of running profiles. The sample size mentioned is 10 runners, which for me is way too low to be of real statistical use, and more so with the concerns I mention above.
Why Faster – The Science Behind
Let’s first hear from the folks at Airia Running on what can make someone run faster. The theory essentially is that there is a biomechanical difference in the shoe design which 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. The Airia One design has been able to better optimize the forces of a stride into forward momentum speed.
This faster running experience is brought about by the following design modifications
- Uniquely shaped, asymmetric sole, with varying thickness to optimize the biomechanics. Balance, direction of the force in the push off phase and body posture.
- 6mm drop from outside to inside giving a faster ride and more even impact (faster transition from landing to takeoff). Sole is thinner on the inside (toe side) and thicker on the outside.
- Zero drop from the heel to the outside of the midfoot
- Round heel to better accommodate different landing patterns
- The highest point of the heel is directly under body’s natural center of gravity. Protruding areas of the sole to give better newtonian angles for forward push – this leads to a faster stride, and as a result, less energy lost
- Sole Material – more rebound
As mentioned by team Airia, runners who tested these shoes not only run faster, they get a different and better feeling from running. Most people report that they feel stronger and have an improved posture. The shoe is considered equally effective in forefoot strikers, mid foot and heel strikers, but there is a tendency for heavy heel strikers to change their muscle usage pattern. Some have experienced sore calves.
My Experience with the Airia One
Team Airia sent me this review sample at a really good time. My next big run was a half marathon about 3 weeks away, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, not much time to get used to the new pair. As soon as I put these on, it was apparent. I cannot walk in one. They are simply not made for walking, and its uncomfortable to say the least. Running initially seemed odd, probably because of the outside to inside drop which is really prominent and you feel it. However, a few easy runs take you over that. Next, it was not as if it was immediately apparent to me that these are going to be fast the moment you jump in.
So, without too much on expectations, I put the shoes on to some good use. Regular easy paced training and the occasional speed runs were all done in these. I could feel my calfs not being too comfortable and complaining a bit with the transition, the additional stress was obviously there with the change in the landing pattern. I was apprehensive whether I would pick up a calf injury, something which I am quite prone to. My training was however going good, and I was excited about doing a good one, and hopefully my first sub two hours run at this event.
Before the race day, I had settled on the race day goal of trying to beat 1:55, which would have been good enough for a personal best for me. It all went wrong at the start as I somehow found myself running at a pace 15 seconds per km faster than the target pace. However, it felt comfortable, and I went with the flow. The last 5 kms were tough, but I was able to persist and finished in 1:51:19, improving my event best by about 16 mins. How much of it would I attribute it to the Airia One? Difficult to answer, but if I was to take a guess, I would say the difference between a 1:55 target (which by no means was an easy goal for me, given my pre-race benchmarks) and a 1:51 finish. So, I probably owe something like 3.5% performance gain from the Airias.
Some questions. These shoes as mentioned on the website are for people having a variety of strides. The testing mentioned has been leaning towards the 5K distances. They also say these shoes work specially when running at your highest effort, aka highest pace. So, would these shoes be the ideal racing shoes for the short distance runners looking at 5K/10Ks, or do they also do justice to longer distance events, like the half marathons and marathons, where runners are running slower that their shorter distance pace. I will look forward to some responses from the company on this.
Price and Availability
The Airia Ones are priced at $190.00, with free shipping and 30 day money back guarantee. I like the money back guarantee part which gives an opportunity to every runner to kind of try these shoes for free for a month, and send them back if you think the concept does not work, its that simple. This policy also gives a confidence in the brand which is making that extra effort to sell their idea. You can order a pair from the official website.
About Airia Running
Founded 2010 in Örebro, Sweden. A running shoe company sprung out of Arbesko, Sweden’s leading manufacturer of high quality footwear designed for safety, work and occupational settings by a line of shoe entrepreneurs with more than 170 years of shoe development heritage.