Record-breaking Nike sneakers spark debate over competitive advantage ahead of New York Marathon

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A debate rages in running circles over whether a specific type of shoe can give runners a competitive edge ahead of Sunday’s New York Marathon.

The Nike Vaporfly shoe is becoming more and more controversial after Eliud Kipchoge’s under two-hour marathon in Vienna on October 12 and Brigid Kosgei’s impressive record-breaking run in the Chicago Marathon last month.

Both wore the high-tech sneaker, according to Reuters.

Eliud Kipchoge is about to cross the historic two-hour barrier for a marathon in Vienna on Saturday, October 12, 2019. Eliud Kipchoge became the first athlete to run a marathon in less than two hours while wearing Nike Vaporfly shoes. (Jed Leicester / The INEOS Challenge 1:59 via AP)

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In 2016, the top three contenders for the men’s marathon at the Rio Olympics all wore a prototype version of the Nike Vaporfly made with a unique fusion of Pebax foam with a curved carbon fiber plate, according to Outside.

Shalane Flanagan won the New York Marathon in 2017 and told Reuters runners should “always ask themselves what’s going on” in their world, but she thinks they shouldn’t take away individual performances.

“You could give the pair of shoes to Joe Shmo on the street – they can’t run what Eliud ran or Brigid Kosgei,” Flanagan said.

The Nike Vaporfly shoe has sparked debate over whether it gives runners an unfair competitive advantage

The Nike Vaporfly shoe has sparked debate over whether it gives runners an unfair competitive advantage
(NIKE)

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) stepped into the debate by forming a group months before Kipchoge’s victory to determine whether the shoes in fact gave competitors an unfair advantage.

The group is expected to report its findings before the end of the year, according to the outlet.

“The challenge is to find a balance between stimulating the development of ‘new technologies’ while preserving ‘the fundamental characteristics of sport’,” the association said in a statement, according to Reuters.

In response to the IAAF, Nike says they “respect” the association and “the spirit of their rules.”

“The shoe Brigid wore in Chicago is the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%. In Vienna, Eliud wore a future version of the Nike Vaporfly which is currently unreleased, ”a Nike spokesperson said, according to Reuters. “However, a shoe is only one factor in a race, and Eliud’s incredible run must be recognized.”

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The shoes, which cost around $ 250, are now used by recreational marathoners, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The sneakers are made with a carbon fiber plate, which biomechanical experts say mimics the spring obtained from the prosthetic blades of amputee runners, which helps them use less energy to run at the same speed.

Brigid Kosgei of Kenya runs to finish to win the women's marathon, setting a new world record using the Nike Vaporfly shoes.

Brigid Kosgei of Kenya runs to finish to win the women’s marathon, setting a new world record using the Nike Vaporfly shoes.
(Reuters)

Nike would be the first manufacturer to use this technology in a shoe.

Meb Keflezighi won the New York Marathon ten years ago and still believes the credit should go to the human body, not a product.

“You have to have the lungs, you have to get to work and stuff,” Keflezighi said, according to Reuters. “If there is a lot of help at the end, I’m pretty sure it will make a difference.”

Even so, new technology can give competitors the edge they need to set themselves apart.

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“It’s going to become – well, it’s – an arms race, and it should be a running race,” said 2018 Boston Marathon winner Des Linden. “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 latest and greatest technology.


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