Eliud Kipchoge’s record-breaking Nike shoes will be banned


Times have turned around in long-distance racing in recent years and critics say some top trainers are artificially boosting performance.

A World Athletics review panel studied the technology in a top trainer line and adopted Nike’s controversial Vaporfly line, but placed an ‘indefinite moratorium’ on any shoes with soles thicker than 40 mm or with more than one rigid plate integrated into the shoe to enhance its spring.

From April 30, it will also ban shoes from competition that have not been on public sale for four months.

The new rules mean the exclusive Nike prototype shoes dubbed Alphafly, worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he became the first person to run a marathon under two hours, would now be considered non-compliant.

“Where World Athletics has reason to believe that a specific type of shoe or technology may not comply with the Rules or the spirit of the Rules, it may subject the shoe or technology to review and may prohibit the ‘use of the shoe or technology while it is under review,’ a statement from World Athletics said Friday.


Nike launched its Vaporfly 4% shoe in 2016 and it quickly became a running benchmark.

A study published in the journal Sports Medicine in 2017 suggested that the shoes, with thick soles and a carbon fiber plate, offered a boost to running economy – the amount of work a runner has to do at a given speed – by about 4% compared to another Nike model and an excellent trainer from Adidas.
A New York Times study in 2018 and another independent review in February 2019 confirmed the findings. According to The New York Times, the top five men’s marathon times in history were set by runners from Vaporflys.
Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei wore Nike’s publicly available Vaporfly Next% when she broke Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record last year. Other manufacturers have since released their own versions of the revolutionary shoes.

The World Athletics panel, which included technical, scientific and legal experts as well as athlete representatives, concluded that the new coaches “could provide a performance advantage and that there is sufficient evidence to raise concerns that integrity of sport is threatened by recent developments”. in shoe technology.”

He added that further research will be undertaken with biomechanical specialists and other experts to evaluate any new shoes, with manufacturers invited to participate in the process.

World Athletics chairman Sebastian Coe said it was not his organization’s job to “regulate the entire sports shoe market”, although he added that it should “maintain the integrity of elite competition.

“As we enter the Olympic year, we don’t think we can exclude shoes that have generally been available for a considerable period of time, but we can draw a line by banning the use of shoes that go further than what is currently on the market while we investigate further,” he said.

“I believe these new rules strike the right balance in providing certainty for athletes and manufacturers as they prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, while addressing concerns that have been raised about footwear technology.

“If further evidence becomes available indicating that we need to tighten these rules, we reserve the right to do so to protect our sport.”

Kipchoge has compared running a sub-two hour marathon to Neil Armstrong’s historic moon landing in 1969 and the Kenyan sees nothing wrong with the advancement in shoe design.

“They are fair,” he told the Telegraph newspaper. “I trained hard. The technology is developing and we can’t deny it – we have to go with the technology.”

However, British Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi thinks allowing a technological arms race in shoes is straying into dangerous territory for the sport.

“If they’re saying doping isn’t allowed because it’s performance enhancing, but we’re okay with these shoes also being performance enhancing, there’s a bit of inconsistency there,” she told the BBC ahead of World Athletics’ decision.

“What interests us now is not who is the best athlete, but who has the best shoes.”

Swimming is another sport that has had to deal with the consequences of technological advances.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 94% of all swimming races were won by athletes wearing Speedo’s LZR Racer swimsuits, according to Time Magazine.

After 17 world records fell at the European Short Course Championships later that year, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) changed its rules regarding swimwear length and material.

Kenya's Brigid Kosgei won the Chiacgo Marathon with a new world record of 2:14.04 in October.
“We’re talking about performance integrity,” respected sports scientist Professor Ross Tucker said, speaking to CNN ahead of Kipchoge’s sub-two-hour attempt in October.

“Is Kipchoge an outlier with immense athletic potential? Or is he just a very good runner who benefits from the immense improvements his shoes bring? Maybe both.

“But the thing is, we don’t know with absolute certainty. Running, especially the marathon, is supposed to be the purest thing humans put themselves through. It’s just about the feet, the legs, the lungs , heart and brain. These shoes create the same problems as doping.”


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