Controversial Vaporflys likely to escape ban but running shoe rules will tighten
World Athletics will not be imposing a blanket ban on the controversial hi-tech Nike Vaporflys that have transformed athletics when it announces its long-awaited decision on shoe technology on Friday, the Guardian understands.
Instead the sport’s governing body is expected to announce a temporary suspension of any new shoe technology until after the Tokyo Olympics this summer, alongside the launch of a comprehensive research project to examine just how advantageous the shoes, and others like it from rival brands, are at elite level.
World Athletics is also likely to introduce a tighter set of regulations for new shoes in the future, including the need for companies to present any prototypes to it for approval before they can be used in competition.
Such has been the Vaporflys’ dominance in recent years that athletes wearing them claimed 31 of the 36 podium positions in the six world marathon majors in 2019.
The Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge also wore a pair when he set an official men’s world record in Berlin in 2018 with a time of 2:01:39, while his compatriot Brigid Kosgei smashed Paula Radcliffe’s women’s record in the Next% version of the shoe last October in 2:14:04.
However, the shoes, which were introduced in 2016, have deeply divided the athletics community, with some supporting the technological arms race as part of an inevitable evolution of the sport, and others warning that it is deeply unfair to athletes who are not sponsored by Nike.
Kipchoge has denied that, saying: “They are fair. I trained hard. Technology is growing and we can’t deny it—we must go with technology.”
But the small number of studies conducted on the Vaporflys suggest that, depending on the model and athlete, they can typically improve a person’s running economy by 4-5 per cent—which translates to at least a minute—to 90-second advantage for an elite male runner over 26.2 miles and even more in an average club athlete.
Where that leaves the Nike AlphaFly, the next generation prototype shoes worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he ran the first sub-two hour marathon in October in an unofficial event is unclear.
It is understood that these shoes—which are said to contain three carbon plates and improve running economy by 8 per cent—have not yet been submitted to World Athletics experts for inspection. -Guardian