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26th February 2020

Shoegate: Nike’s controversial trainers

The trainers that are guaranteed to make you faster!
Shoegate: Nike’s controversial trainers
Image: Nike’s new AirZooms, Marco Verch @ Flickr

In October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge broke through a long-standing barrier for distance athletes, running the first sub-two-hour marathon in Austria. Though, in the four months since, the discussion of his achievement has been overshadowed by his trainers of all things!

Nike’s new technology first made headlines in 2016, with the introduction of their Vaporfly running shoes. These trainers were released with the claim that they improved running economy by 4%. To put this into more manageable terms, they should decrease the average marathon time for professionals by 90 seconds.

While this might not seem like much, every second counts for those seeking to break records, and the Vaporflys have helped them do just that.

As already mentioned, Kipchoge’s outstanding run holds an unofficial world record for the fastest marathon ever, and he is not the only record-breaker. British athlete, Paula Radcliffe, saw her time finally defeated after 16 years by Kenyan runner, Brigid Kosgei.

The difference between Radcliffe and Kosgei’s times? 81 seconds.

Without taking away from the unbelievable performance of Kosgei, her use of Nike’s technology appears integral to the new record. The IAAF rulebook states: “shoes must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage.” Do the Vaporflys contradict this? Nike doesn’t believe so.

With the Vaporflys still a hot topic in the world of athletics, Nike has added fuel to the fire by recently announcing the production of a new shoe. They are called the AirZoom Alphafly Next%, and have been hailed by their creators as “another gamechanger.”

Though Nike has ensured that both the Alphaflys and the Vaporflys now conform to the IAAF’s standards, the moralities of their use remains an issue for many. Their technologies are so borderline, that the new sprinting trainer they have released, the Viperfly, has been ruled unacceptable for use.

Nike claims that they will modify the shoe so that it is approved by the IAAF, but the debate lives on.

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