In a long-awaited move, the sports federation confirmed that Nike Vaporfly and Next%s, which cost £240 and can improve marathon times by one to two minutes for elite athletes, are legally acceptable, although many in the sport accuse the shoes of being like “technological doping”. World Athletics` new regulations are a step forward in reducing the manufacturer`s arms race that distracts from athletic running, but the shoes are more complex than a general limitation on construction. Now that there are defined boundaries, it seems that the next step for shoe innovation is to work within the confines of World Athletics to optimize shoes for individual runners. The new regulations mean the next-generation Nike AlphaFly, which Eliud Kipchoge wore when he ran 26.2 miles in less than two hours in Vienna in October, would not be allowed, as they contain three carbon plates and would have a sole more than 40mm thick. Now, the Kipchoge Vaporflys have recently been banned from competition by World Athletics, the governing body of running. Nevertheless, other versions of the shoes will still be legal. In addition, each new shoe model must be made available to everyone for purchase for four months before it can be used in competition. Ah, yes: the Vaporfly NEXT% 2, also known as the next generation of Vaporfly shoes – with additional innovations such as breathable mesh material that helps feet stay cool while running, padded pockets to reduce peak pressure and more. However, this result could still be criticized, as Nike`s competitors only have until spring to respond to the design of the Vaporfly, otherwise their shoes will not be legal for the next Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Either way, it will likely affect the sport at both the professional and amateur levels.
The list goes on, with Strava finding in its 2019 review that the median finish time of marathon runners wearing the Next% was 8.7% faster than runners in the fastest shoe. In golf, the size of a club head in professional competition is limited to 460 cubic centimeters. While many recreational players have no problem using an oversized driver, the stigma means that most play with clubs that play by the rules. However, major brands still make racquets that aren`t legal in competition, and it will be fascinating to see if Nike brings the Alphafly to the mass market despite its current status. As the Guardian first reported this week, the Nike models Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei wore to break official men`s and women`s marathon records over the past 18 months are legal. But the more you get into Vaporfly, the next-generation high-tech running shoe technology that debuted half a decade ago, there really can`t be any other description. Kenya`s Brigid Kosgei intensified the debate on VaporFly by beating Paula Radcliffe`s marathon world record of 2:15:25, which had stood since 2003, by 81 seconds. His world record of 2:14:04 at the Chicago Marathon came just one day after Kipchoge became the first man to break the marathon`s two-hour barrier and give the world a glimpse of the upcoming installation of VaporFly technology. The shoes are so effective that many elites competing for Nike`s rivals have risked the wrath of their sponsors by choosing to wear vaporflys, such as at the recent Mumbai Marathon, where winners Derera Hurisa and Amane Beriso, both Adidas athletes, ran in Next%.
The question now is whether the brands will produce shoes that don`t comply with World Athletics rules, which seems possible since marathoners in the middle peloton won`t have shoe inspections. In sports, the smallest advantage can mean the difference between winning and losing. Nowhere are these turning points more evident than in the Olympic race, where the level of talent is so high that only a fraction of a second can tell the difference between a gold medal and a fourth-place finish. Since the sport requires so little equipment, a lot of attention has been paid to the main piece of equipment that every runner needs – shoes. Ultimately, the proposed benefits of Vaporfly shoes won`t suddenly turn recreational donkeys into racehorses. But at the elite level, it`s possible that a top athlete will suddenly become non-competitive if they don`t follow the kind of innovation Nike has shown. Whatever World Athletics decides, running has gone from a running race to an arms race. As a result, prototypes have long been taken to the highest level – and not just by those who race for Nike. When winning the 2018 Boston Marathon, Desiree Linden wore an early prototype of the Brooks Hyperion Elite, a shoe that contains a carbon-fiber plate and is set to be released Feb.
27, two days before the U.S. Olympic marathon trials. In the release, there is an additional note from World Athletics: Yes. The high jump and long jump already had rules that limited the height of the shoes, as they could compete with thicker soles in these competitions. The maximum permissible height of the heel in the high jump is 19 mm, and in both cases the sole must have a maximum thickness of 13 mm at the front. We know that the type of technology that the Vaporfly incorporates can give riders an edge. A study published in 2017 showed that these shoes were 4% more effective than many of their competitors. Most notably, the premium running shoe is the final version of the prototype that elite marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge wore in October when he ran 26.2 miles on a closed track in less than two hours. What`s causing the massive improvement isn`t entirely clear (or at least it`s a secret sauce that Nike doesn`t spread), though it has something to do with a combination of foam in the midsole and a carbon fiber plate tucked into the shoes. This design allows the return of about 80% of the energy of each kick of the runner on the ground. Former Olympian and now top coach Matt Yates told the Guardian the new rules were a case of too little too late. “Athletes lost medals, money and financial support because Nike was allowed to break the rules while World Athletics slept and did nothing,” he said.
“It`s the same as doping, it`s just cheating.” It`s a problem for which there may be no practical solution, according to Bryce Dyer, a sports technologist and product design expert at Bournemouth University. “If you don`t get all athletes to wear the exact same shoe of the same brand, reduced to their own size and capacity, you`ll never be able to isolate or immunize the sport from the influence of technology,” he says. “This still seems to allow the air bubble under the forefoot, although it is not clear whether the extra plate `just attach spikes to the bottom outside of the shoe` indicates whether or not it can be used to sandwich this bubble. What I find most interesting about the air bubbles in these spikes is that you can theoretically put them under pressure at different effective stiffnesses. So you can create shoes with an individual print for different people and events. At different speeds, you have different contact times and force generation rates. A sprinter may want something with high pressure for a fast, stiff response, while a long-distance runner with slightly longer contact might benefit from slightly lower pressure. Having a bubble that can be adjusted to the mechanics and contact frequencies of the riders for different events could be really interesting. It is not clear to me how these rules would affect this technology.