Dr. Wouter Hoogkamer is the principle author of one of the most important pieces of running shoe research ever published.
In 2018 his paper “A Comparison of the Energetic Cost of Running in Marathon
Racing Shoes” was published in Sports Medicine, and for the first time revealed exactly what was going on with the Nike Vaporfly, the first of the so called Super Shoes,
Wouter’s story starts way before that though, and, it is one of the most interesting we have aired on SHOEphoria.
Like Kevin Fallon from Speedland, Wouter started his professional and academic life as an engineer. Basically, the take home message from all of this is that being good at maths can turn you into a running shoe superstar!
Wouter was a very accomplished scientist long before he started working on the Nike project. He found his niche in biomechanics, and developed a lifetime interest in, if not passion for, energetics. Initially this had nothing to dom with running shoes, but simply looked at the energetics of uphill running.
This led him into several projects involving cycling, and then an important step into neurophysiology, trying to unravel some of the mysteries of stroke and Parkinson’s Disease.
Eventually Nike came knocking on his door, and Wouter began working on a project dedicated to the development of a shoe to take an athlete under 2 hours for the marathon. Working with another iconic researcher in Rodger Kram, bot scientists thought this achievement, if possible at all, was at least 5-10 years in the future.
History has now recorded that on October 13th 2019, the great Eliud Kipchoge ran the marathon distance in 1:59:40.. in a Nike prototype shoe codenamed the Alphafly, that Wouter Hoogkamer helped to develop. Not a bad thing to have on your CV!
Despite this, Wouter always felt like an “outsider looking in” in relation to Nike, and much of his subsequent understanding of how the Nike super shoes work has been achieved via reverse engineering, and without the assistance of Nike!
Wouter has now moved from Colorado to Amherst, where he heads up the University of Massachusetts Integrative Locomotion Lab (UMILL) and is currently working on new projects with…. PUMA.