Sports

Enko running shoes have a shocking design

Enko running shoes have a shoc...
Each Enko shoe features 2 cm (0.8 in) of coil-sprung suspension
Each Enko shoe features 2 cm (0.8 in) of coil-sprung suspension
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Each Enko shoe features 2 cm (0.8 in) of coil-sprung suspension
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Each Enko shoe features 2 cm (0.8 in) of coil-sprung suspension
An Enko prototype being manufactured in Italy
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An Enko prototype being manufactured in Italy

We've certainly seen a lot of running shoes with shock-absorbing cushions in the soles, that are designed to absorb energy on the downstep and then release it on the upstep. The Enko shoe, however, takes that concept a step farther – it incorporates two actual coil-sprung shocks on each shoe, along with a hinged second sole.

In development by French runner Christian Freschi since 2002, the Enko's concept is fairly simple.

When the user steps down onto their heel, the shocks are compressed and the rear section of the sole folds up against the underside of the foot. As they stride forward and transfer their weight up to the ball of their foot, the shocks expand again. Since the ground blocks the rear part of the sole from moving down, all of the energy that's released by the coils instead goes into pushing the foot up and forward. That's the idea, at any rate.

Additionally, the setup also helps absorb potentially injury-causing impact every time the user's feet hit the ground.

An Enko prototype being manufactured in Italy
An Enko prototype being manufactured in Italy

A lever on the side of each shoe allows users to tweak the coil tension for use in walking or running. Additionally, users can choose between coils of varying stiffness, depending on their body weight. As an added bonus, the rubber studs on the bottom of the sole are replaceable, so users don't have to throw the shoes away as soon as their gripping surface wears down.

Freschi and his team are currently raising production funds for the Enko, on Indiegogo. A pledge of US$390 will get you a pair, when and if they're ready to go. Potential buyers might also want to check out Adidas' Springblade shoe.

Sources: Enko, Indiegogo

6 comments
Milton
I thought the HEEL - TOE approach to running was bad practice? Don't the pros run w/ just TOE?
sk8dad
Milton,
Good point on running technique, but I don't think serious runners are the intended demographics. Hip trendy denizens of the local gym whose purpose at the workout arena is only to be seen and to, hopefully, find a date for the weekend are. For them, the more moving parts the better.
I'm about to kickstart a shoe with fully adjustable hydraulic damped, air springed, adjustable travel, virtual pivot multi-link suspension with real time active magnetorheological fluid adjustments from an open-source app Bluetooth on iPhone 10, and it can also brew a mean expresso and track your sleep and notify you if your car needs an oil service. I will be make only of certified organic, vegan, recycled materials in factories that pay their multi-ethnic workers a living wage. It will be connected to social networks and log your coolness statistics directly to twitter, facebook, and instagram. Oh did I mention it will come with complimentary pairs of skinny jeans yoga pants? I plan to advertise on public radio podcasts and underground clubs to generate hype. It will retail for $20000 a pair, but initial pledges can secure a pair at half price. Any takers?
Rann Xeroxx
Not sure why you would want this in running as, my possibly erroneous assumption is, that you're trying to burn as many cals and stay health, not get to point A to B with the least energy burn.
If some sort of system could be worked out for military or back packers who are not trying to burn cals but get to A to B with gear, that would actually make sense.
Noel K Frothingham
Milton, a 'heel/toe' stride is very inefficient for a sprinter. In fact, it actually slows a sprinter down. The exact opposite is true for a distance runner. A distance runners stride will roll from the heel along the outer side of the foot and through the ball of the foot with the stride completing its roll forward just as the heel of the other foot makes ground contact. Both are runners and yet, the mechanics of sprinters step and a distance runners step are completely different because they are performing completely different tasks. Their shoes are purpose-built.
Rann Xeroxx, as you guessed, your assumptions about the purpose of a runners stride is incorrect, but only because sprinters and distance runners have different goals. Try running a mile entirely on the balls of your feet (a sprinters stride). If your body isn't one big charley horse by then, switch to a distance runners stride - heel contact first with body weight rolling along the outside of the foot culminating with a push with your toes. Yes, a push from your toes. Losing that little push and you'll waste energy you'll wish you had as the finish line looms ahead. Runners are not out on the road to burn calories. Their goal - whether sprinter or distance runner - is to be as energy efficient as possible regardless of their chosen events.
Let's go one step further and consider how a stroke affects a persons body. I'll use my own for an example. With one knee fused, I could still out walk all but a few people. My stroke affected my right side, primarily my right leg from the knee down. Total loss of muscle tone and control. This shoes design could provide the forward momentum needed to complete a step without the characteristic 'hitch' in my giddyup. Yes, extensive physical therapy was needed to regain muscle tone and control. Even this shoe design could not overcome that hitch without the proper foundation of P/T. But, it COULD help and that it has. Think 'Blade Runners'.
Brentbaker
I have to disagree with Noel on one point. My sole goal of running is to burn calaries.

I am interested in this product because of a severe foot and ankle injury I had 11 years ago which has given me bad arthritis and high levels of pain that come with the foot impact of running. 4 bones on the top of my foot were fused together and two in my ankle.

If this shock system can reduce impact and increase forward spring then I am in.
JoshDyrland
You're all wrong, especially you Noel. Elite distance runners and sprinters all run with the exact same stride, because for the human body there is one correct stride. Nobody should run with a "heel-toe" stride because of the insane forces it puts into your knee and the fact that it slows you down. You're all talking about running to burn calories, and yeah you'll burn more calories with an inefficient stride but you'll also destroy your knees and ankles. Want to burn more calories? run farther.