A sneaker debate had become one of the main focal points leading up to the annual New York City Marathon this Sunday after high-tech shoes played a role in two of the largest distance-running achievements in recent months.
Eliud Kipchoge, who was wearing an unreleased version of Nike’s Vaporfly, shattered the 2 hour record at a marathon run in Vienna.
Brigid Kosegi’s impressive run at last month’s Chicago Marathon helped place the $250 Vaporfly’s on a pedestal.
Instead soaking up the glory that comes with being worn by sport’s top competitors, the Nike shoe has become controversial and critics are wondering if the footwear gives athletes an unfair advantage.
Pictured: Eliud Kipchoge holding his pair of Nike NEXT% Vaporfly shoes that he wore during his historic run
Shalane Flanagan, the 2017 winner of the New York City Marathon, says that the running community should ‘always question what’s going on’ but the debate shouldn’t overshadow the athletes accomplishments.
She said: ‘You could give the pair of shoes to Joe Shmo off the street – they can´t go run what Eliud ran or Brigid Kosgei.’
‘It´s up to other companies now to match the innovation or the IAAF needs to come in and say “we´re not having this innovation as part of our sport”.’
The International Association of Athletics Federations created a group to determine high-tech sneaker’s place in the running circuit months before Kipchoge’s historic run, but it’s unclear how that will affect their judgement.
Kipchoge (pictured) was wearing Nike Vaporfly shoe when he shattered a marathon run record in Vienna and critics are questioning if the shoe’s give athletes an ‘unfair advantage’
It’s expected that the group will come to a decision by the end of the year.
The association said in a statement that they’re working to determine the middle ground between new advancements and the fundamental ethics of the sport.
‘The challenge is striking a balance between spurring development of ‘new technologies’ while preserving ‘the fundamental characteristics of the sport,’ they said.
According to the IAAF: ‘shoes must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage” and that “any type of shoe used must be reasonably available to all.’
Pictured: Nike’s ‘innovative’ ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% that Kosgei wore (left) and another pair (right) that are currently on sale for around $250
A Nike spokesperson said: ‘The shoe that Brigid wore in Chicago is the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%. In Vienna, Eliud wore a future version of the Nike Vaporfly that is currently unreleased.’
‘However, a shoe is only one factor in a race, and Eliud’s incredible run should be acknowledged.’
Meb Keflezighi, a retired runner who won the 2008 New York City Marathon and Olympic silver medalist, said the athletes – not their shoes – ultimately deserved the applause.
He said: ‘You’ve got to have the lungs, you’ve got to have put in the work and all that. If there’s a lot of aid at the end I´m pretty sure it will make a difference.’
Running is not the only sport to see a push back against new innovations in their community’s athletic wear.
Brigid Kosegi (pictured) wore a pair of Vaporfly shoes when she won first place at the 2019 Chicago Marathon
In 2010, high-tech suits were banned from swimming when a host of records were shattered.
Athletes, on their part, find it frustrating that people are crediting their gear for their successes.
‘It’s super frustrating that someone has an amazing race and we go “what are they wearing?”, 2018 Boston Marathon winner Des Linden said.
‘It´s not just the athlete anymore.’
She continued: ‘It´s going to become – well, it is — an arms race and it should be a foot race. We should find out who (is) the best athlete and who can cover 26.2 (miles) better than the other person, not who has the newest, greatest technology.’