Nike shoe controversy

January 17, 2020
James Sephton

Technological advancements in sport are guaranteed just as much as death and taxes. Nike has recently found that improvements can possibly go too far and put noses seriously out of joint!

While the annual F1 tech debate arises annually when a cluster of teams significantly outgun the rest, the debate in the legality of the Nike Vaporflyrunning shoes intensified this week with Eliud Kipchoge, current Olympic marathon champion and the first man to run 26.2 miles under two hours, albeit aided by Ineos’ millions, hitting back at the potential banning of his futuristic sneakers.

So, should the shoes be banned? As far as I’m aware there is no motor in the sole of the shoe and athletes do propel themselves independently.  The incremental efficiency of the shoes comes from a carbon-fibre plate in the mid-step that is packed in foam. This captures energy in each step and helps propel the runner forward.

Nike’s tech division has simply stepped up to the plate, literally, and hit a home run of epic proportions, knocking their running shoe competitors out of the park. Running shoe design, of course, has moved on a bit since Phil Knight introduced his first Nike to the US market (I’m halfway through the engaging ‘Shoe Dog’ and it will now require an updated edition!).  As is the nature of the business one company will be looking to outdo another and offer the most technologically advanced, energy-efficient and fastest product on the market.

Yes, the Vaporfly in its various guises has provided a disproportionate number of fastest times in just a few years, but is it sour grapes from the other companies and athletes lagging behind? It will never happen of course, but as per Formula E, do we need athletes competing in the same footwear to ensure a level playing field?

It will be interesting to see the result of the investigations by the World Athletics governing body. Can they really ban the Vaporfly and hit Nike’s profits for being ahead of the game? FINA, swimming’s world governing body, did ban Speedo’s full-body swimsuits when they were deemed to provide too much of an advantage.  If they do ban the shoes then will they also scrub off the world records set in recent years, giving back Paula Radcliffe’s marathon time for example?

Now, I must go for that run, if I only had a spare £239.95 to pick up the latest Vaporflys!


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