The international running federation on Friday cleared the way for competitors at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to wear Nike's controversial VaporFly shoes, which have been shown to make runners faster.
Some distance runners say that the shoes that have been on the market since 2017 help to promote running. Others say they give an unfair advantage. World Athletics – the sports association formerly known as the IAAF – has now interfered and issued new guidelines on what is permitted in the technology of elite running shoes.
The instructions stipulate that the thickness of a shoe sole must not exceed 40 millimeters. In addition, the number of carbon fiber plates allowed in a sneaker is limited to one. The VaporFlys have a 36 millimeter sole and a single full length carbon plate to avoid energy loss,
The carbon fiber plate is a "built-in secret weapon" that provides "a driving sense of speed at every step," says the sportswear and equipment manufacturer on its website.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, a four-time British Olympic champion, said in a statement: "It is not our job to regulate the entire sports footwear market, it is our duty to maintain the integrity of the elite competition by doing so that shoes elite athletes in competition do not offer unfair support or benefits. "
The changed rules also stipulate that shoes worn by runners in competition must be available in stores for at least four months from April 30th. This effectively blocks Nike competitors who are developing similar technologies for making shoes that will compete in the upcoming Olympic Games.
The VaporFlys have illuminated the running scene with their bright colors and the controversy surrounding the supposed advantage they give runners. When the Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the milestoneIn October he was surrounded by a team of pacemakers wearing light pink VaporFlys. Kipchoge wore a prototype Nike sneaker that did not meet World Athletics competition standards. Subsequent research showed that the shoes can make runners 4% faster.
"We do not believe that at the beginning of the Olympic year we can exclude shoes that have been widely available for some time, but we can draw a line by banning the use of shoes that go beyond the current level of the market while we are continue to investigate, "Coe said on Friday.
Running coach John Henwood, who attended the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, said Nike technology will benefit running in conjunction with World Athletics' decision. He compared the progress in shoes with the steady improvement in the careers.
"It's similar to how tracks have evolved over the past 100 years to perform faster," he told CBS MoneyWatch.
However, Henwood conceded that the performance of some record holders could quickly lose brilliance due to the rapid technological progress. "I have a feeling for the elite runners who have come to the end of their careers without these shoes: their times may be cut from the record books much earlier than they thought," he said.
Carol Garber, director of applied physiology at Columbia University's Teachers College, also supports the decision.
"As long as it is a standard that has been agreed by a government agency and is available to all athletes, I do not consider this to be an unfair advantage for anyone," she said.
Some racers oppose it
Not all elite runners believe that the VaporFly should be allowed to compete. Travis Hawkins, a New York-based endurance coach and former professional Ironman triathlete, is partly against the sneaker because it can only give runners benefits that can afford the high price of $ 250.
"I come from triathlon, where the entry barrier is notoriously high, with entry fees for races, pool memberships, wetsuits, and the endless arms race of the black hole of bike gear. I think running is egalitarian," said Hawkins of CBS MoneyWatch.
He said the rules contradict World Athletic's own commitment that shoes must not give an unfair advantage. "I couldn't agree to that anymore, and I don't feel like they'll keep up with it if they allow Nike's current shoe."
Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment.