Christian Mitschke, Katrin Karger and Thomas L. Milani
The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of footwear stiffness and energy loss on oxygen uptake and heart rate in athletes running under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Four footwear conditions with identical outsoles, insoles, upper materials, but different mechanical properties regarding polyurethane midsole materials were investigated. Respective midsole material characteristics were selected to represent a wide range of running shoes. The test procedure for eighteen well‐trained male runners was divided into three treadmill testing sessions: an incremental ramp protocol to estimate the individual ventilatory threshold (day 1), a test with 6‐minute stages in each shoe at 70% (aerobic, day 2) and 102% (anaerobic, day 3) of the participant’s ventilatory threshold. For oxygen uptake and the heart rate, no significant differences between footwear conditions were found for either running condition. Furthermore, no significant relationships between physiological variables and mechanical midsole characteristics were found. The wide range of significant stiffness differences in the rearfoot (52.7 N/mm) and forefoot areas (50.7 N/mm), as well as significant differences of the shoe midsole material energy loss in the rearfoot (18.8%) and forefoot areas (10.7%) were too low to influence physiological variables significantly when running below and slightly above the ventilatory threshold. It seems that shoe mass and shoe comfort can influence physiological variables more than the mechanical midsole characteristics of stiffness and energy loss. These results may have practical implications for shoe manufacturers, coaches, and athletes, alike.