Can the Airia One Running Shoe Make you Run Faster?
Look at this crazy new shoe! It claims to make you run 1 – 7% faster. Who wouldn’t want to try that? A few months ago, Swedish company Airia, makers of the Aria One Running Shoe, reached out and asked if I wanted to try and review a pair of their first model shoe.
I had never head of these shoes. Nobody I knew had heard of them. I was intrigued… if nothing else, it would be a fun experiment. It took me awhile to get any sort of decent mileage in. Now that I have, I can say it is the most interesting shoe I have ever run in.
If you love “experimental” shoes, this might be for you. I spent quite a bit of time reading other, more scientific reviews. I didn’t understand much of it, but you can read them here if you’re curious.
What is the Airia One Running Shoe?
This is unlike any running shoe I have ever worn. The first thing you see when you open the box is a warning. I’m paraphrasing, but it says,
… be careful you may not be used to exercising the muscles that will come into play… when you first put on the Airia One Running Shoe it will feel very strange… Try to relax and let the shoe geometry work for you… they are made solely for running and we mean it.
I was so intrigued that I immediately put them on and walked around the living room. They were right. If you were trying these on in a store, I can’t imagine bringing them home.
They didn’t hurt, but they felt awkward to walk in. So awkward that if you are not running immediately after putting them on, you might want to consider wearing another pair of shoes first.
This awkward feeling comes from the fact that they are built on a slant (for lack of a better term). Traditional running shoes have a heel to toe drop. These have 0mm drop from the heel to the outside of the mid foot, and a 6mm drop from the heel to the inside of the mid foot. The idea is that this allows you to, “run with less ground contact time and helps to keep the power in the stride more in line with the running direction.”
The official press release says this,
After years of development, Airia is about to launch a concept that will revolutionize the way we look at running shoes. Airia One’s construction is inspired by the wheel, to ensure runners achieve that perfect feeling of flow. The shoe has a unique design featuring an irregular and sharply angled sole and upward-pointing toe. It harnesses untapped power in the human body and doesn’t leak energy like other running shoes do. In fact, it unleashes the power of a stride for a faster and more enjoyable running experience.
There are bumps along the sole. They are subtle when you look at them, but extremely pronounced when wearing them.
The toe box is also quite odd. It comes up at a 30-35 degree angle. Once you get them on, you don’t notice that as much, but as soon as I put them on I thought, “wow, my toes feel… up.”
A few more eyebrow raising claims from their promotional video;
This shoe will revolutionize running. It will make you run faster, and give you a better running feel.
The shoe has a uniquely shaped asymmetric sole, with varying thicknesses to optimize the biomechanics.
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.
The Airia One Running shoes have some fairly high end features. A Vibram outsole (making them extremely durable) an Ortholite insole (with anti-microbial properties), and a highly breathable mesh upper.
When my wife first saw them, she thought they were an orthopedic shoe you might find in a nursing home (Airia is connected to a Swedish company that makes safety shoes as well). The design definitely has room for improvement.
How They Feel While Running
The first hundred yards of running in the Airia One, I felt like I was running in tap dancing shoes. Not that I have ever tap danced, but if I had, that is what I imagine it would feel like.
It is unusual.
It was a bit uncomfortable.
They ride very firm, to the point of feeling hard. Again, these are designed to go fast in. They are the lowest to the ground shoes I have ever run in (aside from track racing flats). Those first few hundred yards were not very enjoyable.
After perhaps .5 – 1 mile, I totally forgot about them. My mind started wandering (as it always does) and they sort of disappeared. I say this as a very neutral observation. They were neither good nor bad.
The next few runs, I had the same experience, but the “break in” at the beginning seemed to be less (I ran almost the same route each time and recalled about where I “forgot” to think about them).
So… Will they Make You Faster?
This is the million dollar question. To be fair, I never raced in them. They are not designed for everyday use. They are intended for going fast. On that point, (the main one they seem to be using as a selling point), it is hard to say if it’s true since it would require a lot of testing.
For their own tests, they used time trials and “developed a test protocol based on paired time trials conducted in an “as sterile as possible” running environment with only the shoes being the varying parameter…” You can read more about their tests here.
There are so many variables to account for, I’m not sure how an average runner could figure this out. Hard to know if a faster time was due to the shoes or simply having a better day. Even still, if they could make you run 1% faster (with all other things being equal), that’s about 12 seconds for a 20 minute 5k, just from shoes!
I don’t know how you could say, with any level of certainty, that a shoe makes you faster. I guess if you ran the same course, over and over and over, controlling for all other variables, you might be able to.
The shoes do claim to help improve your running posture. This, I can attest to. The shoes made me think about my posture more, and as a result, stand up straighter.
I don’t know… it’s hard to recommend these shoes. At $119 a pair (plus international shipping), it’s an expensive experiment. They just feel really weird, and I’m not convinced of the science to push through the weirdness to see if they do improve my times. I’m more concerned about the unintended consequences, or change in bio-mechanics that may introduce new running injuries, or irritate existing ones.
On the other hand, I remember years ago people saying they would never use the iPhone because they couldn’t see the point. Is the Airia One running shoe like that? Something so far advanced and ahead of its time that they just need the rest of the world to catch up? Or, are they the latest “blip” in the shoe-universe?
The truth is, if these shoes improve times by 1 – 7%, I am all in.
What do you think?
Would you try them? They offer a free, 30 day money back guarantee. If you decide to purchase, share your thoughts below.