Reports suggest that Nike’s premiere running shoe, the Vaporfly Next%, could be banned when the World Athletics commission announces new regulations pertaining to running shoes used in official competitions.
The model was the subject of controversy late last year when reports of a possible ban first emerged, and has been under scrutiny following complaints by non-Nike-sponsored athletes, who claimed that the shoes gave Nike athletes an unfair advantage in competitions.
The shoes were last worn by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei, who broke Paula Radcliffe’s women’s marathon record last year with a time of 2:14:04 in Chicago. The new record bested Radcliffe’s 2003 time by a whopping 81 seconds.
Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge is another athlete that regularly wears shoes from Nike’s Vaporfly range, and became the first person to run a marathon under two hours, beating the mark by 20 seconds in Vienna last October, though this feat was not be recognized as an official record. This was because it was not in open competition and he used a team of pacemakers.
Nike’s Vaporfly range controversially utilizes extra thick midsoles with fluid chambers and carbon plates that act like springs, propelling the runner forward. As The Times reports, the technology’s effectiveness has forced World Athletics to appoint a panel of experts to investigate the products and rules, in an attempt to conclude whether the shoes provide an unfair advantage.
Because the shoes are usually released in highly-limited quantities — and the exact shoes worn by Kipchoge and other runners are usually prototypes — The Times reports that the shoes don’t fall within regulations because they are not “available to all.” In addition, it’s widely expected that World Athletics will introduce new parameters with regards to sneaker design that shoe manufacturers won’t be allowed to exceed.
It’s worth noting that the records set by athletes who wore these shoes will likely be allowed to stand, due to precedent. As Highsnobiety outlined previously, Speedo brought a patented “LZR” full-body swimsuit to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, a swimsuit that increased buoyancy and decreased drag. As a result, 25 world records were set in Beijing, 24 of which were set in a LZR suit. Subsequently, full-body suits were eventually banned in competition by FINA (Fédération internationale de natation, the swimming version of the IAAF), but those records still stand today.
Should World Athletics ban Nike’s Vaporfly sneakers, it raises the question of where the line is drawn between technological advancement and unfair advantages, and whether that is something that needs to be regulated.
Stay tuned for updates regarding this story.