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Factors Contributing to the Energetic Cost of Running: Great Article by Kevin Maggs

table1I just read an excellent article by Kevin Maggs of Active Spine and Sport and Running Reform. In the article Kevin summarizes the work of Dr. Roger Kram of the University of Colorado. Kram has spent much of his career dissecting the many factors that contribute that contribute to the energetic cost of running, and Kevin does a great job summarizing a bunch of different studies (that use some interesting contraptions!).

In a nutshell, he Kevin writes that “You can account for nearly 90% of the metabolic costs with 3 factors: vertical body weight support, forward propulsion and leg swing.”

Read the full article here:

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. Stephen Boulet says:

    Nice. I hope the 7 pounds I lost will help me in my spring marathon. I also admired the Rube Goldberg contraptions researchers used to isolate components of running effort.

  2. Fran Sur says:

    Great research. Not sure how much it relates to real life outdoors running, but pretty sure this is as controlled as it’s gonna get. Makes me think that learning to run with gravity (chi?) is the most optimal way in making forward propulsion and leg swing happen with less effort..

  3. A very pro-cushioning result! Fascinating!

  4. Steve Tremblay says:

    I would also add apparel as factor for energy lost. A baggy shirt with a baggy pant could make lot of drag, especially during a windy day.

  5. I met Kevin at the Rehoboth marathon (which you should check out – great course), and he later did an online video gait analysis for me. Nice guy.

    This article was a really good summary, and answered some questions I had been thinking about recently.

    The cushioning/Goldilocks part was particularly interesting. I wonder how well the 10mm result lines up with what elite marathon runners use on their feet. Track athletes wear spikes with no cushioning, but the tracks themselves have a varying amount of cushioning. Are the ‘fast’ tracks providing the equivalent of 10mm EVA foam cushioning?

    I wonder if the cushioning sweet spot is the level where energy return happens at the correct frequency? E.g. A granite running surface would return energy immediately (high resonant frequency), which may be too fast to benefit a human runner. A trampoline (low resonant frequency) returns the energy too slowly. Somewhere between is a resonant frequency (running surface + shoe cushioning) that is ideal for runners, or at least for runners at a certain cadence.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I think your are right, and I think the ideal amount and firmness of cushioning varies by individual and the properties of their anatomy. I find running on a track in a soft shoe to not be enjoyable, and running slow on a road in an overly firm and thick shoe is not enjoyable. Benny Nigg’s muscle tuning work really hones in on this stuff.
      Sent from my iPad

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