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Is there an optimum speed for economical running?

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journal contribution
posted on 22.05.2017 by Matt I. Black, Joe C. Handsaker, Sam Allen, Steph Forrester, Jonathan Folland
The influence of running speed and sex on running economy is unclear and may have been confounded by measurements of oxygen cost that do not account for known differences in substrate metabolism, across a limited range of speeds, and differences in performance standard. Therefore, this study assessed the energy cost of running over a wide range of speeds in high-level and recreational runners to investigate the effect of speed (considered in absolute and relative terms) and sex (males vs. females of equivalent performance standard) on running economy. 92 healthy runners (high-level males, n=14; high-level females, n=10; recreational males, n=35; recreational females, n=33) completed a discontinuous incremental treadmill test for the determination of the energy cost (kcal·kg 1·km-1) of submaximal running, speed at lactate turnpoint (sLTP) and the maximal rate of oxygen uptake (V̇O2max). There were no sex specific differences in the energy cost of running for the recreational or high-level runners when compared at absolute or relative running speeds (P>0.05). The absolute and relative speed-energy cost relationships for the high-level runners demonstrated a curvilinear inverted “u shape” with a nadir reflecting the most economical speed at 13 km.h-1 or 70% sLTP. The high-level runners were more economical than the recreational runners at all absolute and relative running speeds (P<0.05). These findings demonstrate that there is an optimal speed for economical running; there is no sex-specific difference; and, high-level endurance runners exhibit a better running economy than recreational endurance runners.


This work was financially supported by MAS Holdings, Sri Lanka



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering

Published in

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance


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BLACK, M.I. ...et al., 2018. Is there an optimum speed for economical running? International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13(1), pp. 75-81.


© Human Kinetics Publishing as accepted for publication


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



This paper was accepted for publication in the journal International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance and the definitive published version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2017-0015








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