While many performance brands often key in on the shoe’s bottom when working to perfect athletic footwear, peer-reviewed research from the University of Denver suggests the design and construction of the upper is in fact an “essential” consideration.
The researchers tested three configurations of Boa Technology’s dial-based fit system against traditional shoe laces and found a 3 percent to 9 percent improvement in agility, speed and efficiency gains for two of these designs.
The paper, published in Footwear Science on Jan. 18, was funded by Boa. Three of its seven authors were employed by the company as scientific consultants prior to conducting the research described in the paper.
One of those authors, Bradley Davidson, is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Denver. According to Davidson, changing equipment generally has “almost no effect” on athlete performance, but in this case “the improvements were apparent and the evidence was clear.”
“I’ve seen this amount of performance improvement in studies that implemented a targeted multi-week training program, but we saw this simply by changing shoes,” Davidson said in a statement.
Boa’s fit technology uses a mounted dial to pull on a patented lace to create shoe tension. The researchers tested three different configurations of lace and straps. All configurations were placed on an Adidas Adizero Ubersonic 3.0 shoe.
After conducting an assortment of trials with 31 Division 1 and club sport athletes, they found Boa’s tri-panel configuration provided the most consistent performance improvements. The company’s Y-Wrap design also offered improvements, particularly in the most laterally oriented movements. A configuration inspired by traditional shoelace placement provided mixed results.
Since debuting its dial-based fit system on snowboard boots in 2001, Boa has expanded its technology to the cycling, golf, hiking and trail, mountaineering, running, court sports, workwear and medical sectors as well. The company’s tri-panel configuration can currently be found on the Saucony Switchback 2 and La Sportiva VK trail running shoes. The new La Sportiva Cyklon, set to release this spring, will also feature the design.
“Boa’s mission is to transform fit and performance for athletes, inspiring and enabling them to get dialed in to perform at their peak,” Boa CEO Shawn Neville said in a statement. “The foundation of our mission is rooted in delivering scientifically proven, meaningful benefits of our system, led internally by our state-of-the art Performance Fit Lab team along with key partners including the University of Denver.”
Neville described the Footwear Science paper as the first in a series of externally validated, rigorous studies. An additional agility and speed study is currently under peer-review with publication expected later this year, Boa said. Additional studies looking at athlete efficiency in race, and road and trail running, as well as power and precision as it applies to golf, are ongoing and expected to be published throughout 2021 and 2022.