Raising the Bar with the Kenyan High Jump
Anyone who’s ever watched the Olympic High Jump competition knows that almost every jumper uses centrifugal force to overcome the bar. However, in a Kenyan high school High Jump competition, the two champion jumpers defy the traditional concepts in a dazzlingly display of athletics. For the first place winner of the Rift Valley Marathon track and field competition in High Jumping, however, proper footwear is important. Notice that unlike the Olympic competitions where a pad is placed on the other end, there is no cushion for Kenyan high jumpers. As such, they can’t use the centrifugal force mechanism of bending their bodies up and over the bar but instead rely on their own deft maneuvering and getting the most bounce for their buck.
This style of athletics is truly unique to Kenyan racing culture and is exemplified in the annual Rift Valley Marathon. This was taken during a break in that competition where Kenyans, many times without even the comfort of running shoes, undertake grueling displays of legendary athletics.
What goes into these high jump shoes?
Because the world of track and field is very competitive, many racers specialize in multiple categories. For the jumpers, there is the pole vault, high jump, and the triple jump trials. The running shoes designed for these events often accommodate the needs of all three major categories.
Much of the stress on the high jumper occurs in the soles of the feet. This is why, especially with running shoes, weight comes at a premium. It’s important to incorporate mid-sole support into the design. It’s important to alleviate as much of the stress of compression that results from the athletic jumper going from a dead run to an aerial leap.
6-8 Toe Spikes
While most of these shoes will provide both heel and toe spikes, the toe spikes are truly the transitional piece that helps the athletic runner make a smooth passage from sprinting to jumping. (more…)
8mm Heel-to-Toe Offset This piece is really only required for pole vaulters but plenty of high jumpers use it as well. It’s there to increase traction right before the pivotal
8mm Heel-to-Toe Offset
This piece is really only required for pole vaulters but plenty of high jumpers use it as well. It’s there to increase traction right before the pivotal moment the jumper leaves the ground. This allows for more force to be transferred from the sprinter’s feet to the air.
A lot of special synthetic blends go into making these shoes as light as possible while still providing unparalleled traction control and foot support. Injuries associated with these practices can range from stress fractures to compounded ligament damage and tears. The toll is very real, which is why the footwear for athletic high jumpers is of the utmost importance.
The Hazards of Traditional Barefoot Racing
In Kenya, like many parts of the world, athlete runners used to predominantly race barefooted. There’s a certain pride sprinters and jumpers take in being able to obtain their top performance without burdensome footwear. However, sports medicine has conclusively shown many times over that proper footwear can reduce the impact of repeated injuries that occur in these events.
In the footage of these athlete runners competing in the high jump, one of them is wearing specialized running shoes and the other is not. While it isn’t conclusive whether or not that affected overall performance, it would be worth pointing out that the style of jumping they are doing puts a lot of stress on the legs and feet. Unlike the Olympic High Jump where safety pads soak up the force of impact, each athlete in the Kenyan High Jump is absorbing the entirety of the landing force with his feet.