(When I was with Runner’s World, I traveled to Kenya with a group from the magazine in 2005. Our dozen runners met the Kipchoge training group one day in the Great Rift Valley. My wife wanted to run some miles, despite the altitude and a hilly course. I shyly asked the Kenyan runners if anyone would be willing to run at a 12-minute-per-mile pace with us. Kipchoge stepped forward, an easy smile on his face , and walked four miles with us. .)
Still, the IAAF recognizes it has a problem, particularly with the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching. In a statement, he said: “It is clear that some forms of technology would provide assistance to an athlete contrary to the values of sport.” The group has appointed a technical committee to study the issue of the shoe, and report back within the next two months.
Not all fast marathon runners wear Nike shoes. Jared Ward finished sixth in the 2016 Olympic marathon and ran 2:09:25 in April at the Boston Marathon. When Ward lines up for the New York City Marathon in two weeks, he’ll be wearing Saucony shoes, as he has for years.
But not the ones you can find at your local shoe store. Ward worked with biomechanist Spencer White, Saucony’s vice president for human performance, to design a shoe that looks a bit like the Vaporfly. Ward thinks they succeeded. “My new shoes are so good that I know I’m ready to compete well in them,” he said.
Nike is well known in the patent world for its large and increasingly frequent applications. It also has many lawyers, although no one can say what might happen in a patent infringement case until it has gone to trial.
White said he would be unhappy if the IAAF tightened its shoe regulation policy. “We could end up limiting creativity and losing the chance to improve running shoes for the everyday runner,” he noted. “I think the ‘must be widely available’ part of the rule is the best answer.”
Tucker’s view is more in line with Burns’. “The solution is very simple,” Tucker said. “Limit the height of the stack” – which is the height of the midsole – “and prohibit the addition of spring-type devices in the midsole.”