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Speed of a Human Running: Is Footwear a Factor?

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The intended goal of this particular experiment was to determine how footwear affects the speed of a runner during short sprints.


Speed is an object's rate of change of position with respect to time. An object's speed is calculated by dividing the distance an object travels by the time it takes for the object to travel that distance. Retail shoes are a multi-billion dollar industry planet-wide. Prices of shoes range from a few dollars to a few hundreds of dollars. But does the varying price tags dictate a different level of athletic capability? Shoes differ in flexibility, support, sole, and fit to optimize different activities.


  1. Measure the distance the runner is designated to run.
  2. Ask the runner to stretch out.
  3. Let runner wear the tested footwear.
  4. Start the runner and time him like it was a track event.
  5. Give the runner a reasonable break.
  6. Repeat three 3 to 5 times and record the average elapsed time.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 until all footwear are tested.


From the times collected for each individual footwear, we obtained an average. The total distance the runner traveled for each trial was 29.03 m. By dividing the distance traveled by the average time of each individual footwear we were able to obtain an average speed for each individual footwear.

footwear t1 (s) t2 (s) t3 (s) t4 (s) t5 (s) tave (s) v (m/s)
Le Coq Sportif (casual) 4.84 5.19 4.82 4.60 5.04 4.898 5.920
Nike Air Max 95 (running) 4.94 5.32 5.35 - - 5.203 5.579
Timberland (boots) 5.34 5.46 5.24 - - 5.347 5.430
Vans Maverick (skateboarding) 5.02 4.62 5.01 - - 4.883 5.945
Socks 5.30 5.74 5.62 - - 5.533 5.220
barefoot 4.90 5.14 5.12 - - 5.053 5.745
mean 5.640
standard deviation 0.285


The collected data shows that the type of footwear have some effect the speed of a runner. Running with socks and boots proved to be the slowest, and running in casual and skateboard shoes proved to be the fastest.

Sources of Error

The main source of error of the experiment was the runner. The runner unlike a consistent object varies in performance. Many factors affected the runner; factors such as emotions, fatigue, motivation and state of mind. Another source of error is that the fit of each shoe was different and some shoes did not fit the runner ideally. Reaction time of the timer when the run starts and ends is also another source of error.

Chris Cha, Lun Chen, Sze Yin Tam with Davis Chen -- 2005

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