Since the advent of running shoes, lots of attention has been focused on cushioning. And for good reason! Most runners want the comfort and protection that cushioning provides. More recently, max cushioned shoes have become maximally popular. The thinking goes like this: If a little cushioning is good, then a lot more must be better. Despite the fact that “more” isn’t always a good thing, maximally cushioned shoes seem to be here to stay. At least for awhile.
Max cushioned running shoes, sometimes called maximalist shoes, have extremely thick and slightly wider midsoles. The midsole foam in these shoes varies but is often described as soft, plush, cushiony, specifically with regard to the impact phase of a runner’s stride.
If you’re thinking about a max cushioned shoe, we have two questions.
First, ask yourself this. Max cushioned for who? Is it cushioned for a 120 pound runner? Or someone who weighs 195 pounds? Is it made for someone running 5-minute miles? 8-minute miles? 14-minute miles? It turns out that impact forces change dramatically depending on pace and runner weight, and, according to physics, it’s not possible for a single max cushioned shoe to provide ideal cushioning for that wide range of forces.
Unfortunately, this means that the max cushioned shoe you’re running in is almost certainly “max cushioned” for some other runner. Rather than max cushioning, what you really want is optimal cushioning for the way you run. Now we’re getting somewhere. Given the physics of running, the only way to optimize cushioning is to tune the midsole of a shoe to respond to the specific forces of a given pace zone. Vimazi tunes shoes by pace zone to optimize cushioning for every runner. Check.
Now for the second max cushioned shoe question. Does it help my push-off efficiency? While running, your forefoot and toes account for nearly all your propulsion power. But if your midsole is soft, plush, and super cushiony (hello max cushioned shoe), it probably functions about as well as memory foam during the propulsion phase of your stride. Maybe we need to add “sluggish” the to attributes of a max cushion shoe.
Here’s the conundrum. Not only are the impact and push-off forces different from each other, their functions are completely different. Runners want one thing during impact (cushioning) and a different thing altogether during push-off (propulsion efficiency). One foam can’t do it all.
So is it possible to get both the best cushioning and max propulsion efficiency? Yes! The heel of your midsole needs to be tuned differently from the forefoot. That’s why we adjust foam density in the heel and midfoot to account for impact force and then separately adjust foam density in the forefoot to react to push-off force. Both adjustments are based on pace, and that’s what we call tuning.
Bottom line: We’re fans of cushioning. Just make sure the cushioning you get is optimized for the pace you run and doesn’t slow you down during your push off.