Note: Blog post subject matter is discussed in more detail on the Athalonz Podcast.
Performance, comfort, weight, & style are the primary design considerations for an athletic shoe. At Athalonz, we design our shoes with the athlete in mind. We want athletes to play their best and that starts from the ground up. Whether the athlete is a professional or a weekend warrior, the ground-body connection plays a significant role in athletic performance. The ground-body connection is where the athlete’s power comes from. In addition, how the forces traverse through the shoes affect the athlete’s stability and ability to consistently use his/her power.
As such, we’ve emphasized performance in the design of our shoes, but it has to be balanced with comfort and weight. Even if we get the performance, comfort, and weight right, the shoes have to look good or no one, but the most die-hard athlete, will buy them. In our opinion, we’ve nailed the style, so our shoes provide the whole package.
So, how did we balance performance, comfort, and weight? Very carefully! (My attempt at some humor, forgive me if it missed the mark.)
To begin, let’s discuss what we mean by performance. By “performance” we mean performance of the athlete; not the performance of shoe in response to industry testing of materials, manufacturing, and/or durability. A shoe affects an athlete’s performance in two ways: (1) how much energy does the shoe absorb; and (2) how does the shoe direct the forces of the body and the ground.
Softer materials for the insole, midsole, and/or outsole (collectively, the “sole”), provide more cushioning of the foot-ground impact (thus, for most, are more comfortable), but at the cost of energy consumption. To compress the material of the sole, it takes force, which is provided by the body when we put our weight on the shoe. The more compression, the more force it consumes, which leaves less force for the athletic movement.
For example, a weight-lifting shoe includes a sole that has zero compression (e.g., wood, a hard plastic, a hard rubber) so all of the force exerted by the weightlifter is used for the lift and not absorbed by the shoe.
Such a shoe would not be good for runners, since most runners run on paved and/or other hard surfaces. For runners, the sole needs to provide some cushioning to reduce the ground-body impact to tolerable levels. For instance, if the sole is too hard, the ground-body impact will cause pain and, to minimize the pain, the runner will change his/her running style, which almost always reduces athletic performance.
Conversely, a running shoe that has too soft sole for the purpose of minimizes the ground-body impact and mitigating pain does so at the cost of energy absorption. Thus, with this type of shoe, a runner will be more comfortable (i.e., mitigate pain from the ground-body impact) but will expend more energy to compensate for the significant compression of the sole.
Depending on the materials used for the sole, the sole does not full de-compress when the force is removed (i.e., the foot is lifted). Thus, over time, the sole “compresses-out” meaning that it gets compressed and stays compressed regardless of whether weight is being applied or not. Thus, the comfort of a soft sole shoe may be gone in a few weeks of use.
The second athletic performance effect of a shoe is caused by how the shoe direct forces of the body and of the ground. There are three forces of concern: a vertical force (often referred to as ground reaction force), a horizontal shoe-ground force (often referred to as friction force or traction), and a horizontal foot-shoe force (which is rarely discussed in the industry).
In all of the athletic shoes we’ve analyzed, they have a U-shaped forefoot cross-section. Some shoes have a more pronounced U-shape than others, but they all have them. A U-shaped forefoot section adversely affects the vertical force or ground reaction force by directing it away from the body, which means less ground reaction force is going toward the body. Athalonz shoes have a sloped forefoot cross-section that directs the ground reaction force towards the body.
The horizontal shoe-ground force (i.e., friction force) is affected by the traction pattern of the outsole of the shoe. The traction pattern of athletic shoes that we’ve analyzed provide an omnidirectional friction force; meaning it’s the same force regardless of linear and/or rotational movement of the foot. Athalonz Grip & Glide outsole provides directional friction forces that allow for better weight transfer from the back side to the front side while providing the necessary traction in the directions needed.
The horizontal foot-shoe force corresponds to the force between the foot and shoe, which is the force that keeps the foot from moving within the shoe. Soft uppers (e.g., knit), while comfortable, provide little horizontal foot-shoe force so the foot moves within the shoe during athletic movements. Further, with a U-shaped forefoot, the foot moves towards the lateral side of the shoe as weight is loaded on the corresponding leg. When the foot moves within the shoe, energy is wasted and leaves less energy for the athletic movement and causes stability issues (e.g., roll-out or sway). Athalonz shoes include a re-enforced lateral upper and the sloped forefoot section to keep the foot locked into the shoe during athletic movement, so no energy is wasted.
The athletic performance features of Athalonz shoes of the sloped forefoot section, the Grip & Glide outsole, and the re-enforced lateral upper requires a moderately stiff sole (e.g., combination of insole, midsole, and outsole). For most athletes, the stiffness of our sole provides the perfect balance of performance and comfort.
Yes, the sloped forefoot section, the Grip & Glide outsole, and the re-enforced lateral upper add weight to the shoe in comparison to a shoe specifically designed to be of minimal weight. Even so, we come in at 11 ounces per shoe, which is 4 ounces less than many of our competitors’ shoes.
So, we at Athalonz have created a performance enhancing shoe that is comfortable, lightweight, and stylish. We’ll continue to push the state-of-the-art of performance athletic shoes and we welcome your feedback, input, and insight.
I am the CEO and Founder of Athalonz, LLC., I am a founding partner of the patent boutique law firm of Garlick & Markison, I am a survivor of child abuse, and I am an inventor on over 300 patents.
Athalonz is a technology company based on Mesa, AZ. It develops and sells athletic footwear, which incorporates its patented technology that leverages the laws of physics to improve athletic performance. Website: athalonz.com
Garlick & Markison is a patent law boutique firm that assists clients in building a patent business within their business using proprietary tools and techniques. Website: texaspatents.com
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Today was a good bit of climbing. A little over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Not as much as day 1 or day 2, but not trivial. I am really enjoying traveling through the small towns. The people have been friendly, the service has been good, and the food has been excellent.