Oct 18, 2019

Nike's magic running shoes ignite debate

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. Screenshot: Nike.com

Last weekend, Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run a marathon in under 2 hours and Brigid Kosgei shattered the women's marathon record.

Why it matters: "It appears that running, the original and most elemental of sports, now faces the same tradition vs. scientific innovation challenge that other sports have encountered," writes NYT's Amby Burfoot.

  • "Think: tennis rackets, baseball bats and, perhaps most similar, competition swimwear — those polyurethane-based suits that were banned starting in 2010."

Key detail: They were both wearing a pair of Nike shoes called the "Vaporfly," which have proven controversial because of the performance boost they seem to provide.

  • In the last 13 months alone, male runners have recorded the 5 fastest marathon times ever — all while wearing a version of the "Vaporfly."
  • Why they're better: They have a carbon fiber plate embedded in the midsole, which acts as a spring and provides more energy return.

Driving the news: After receiving numerous complaints from runners who believe the shoes provide an unfair advantage, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has put together a team to "consider the issues."

The bottom line: The outcome of this debate will affect everything from stock prices (Nike and their competitors) to who wins the marathon at the 2020 Olympics.

  • P.S. ... Speaking of the 2020 marathon, the IOC announced on Wednesday that it will be held in Sapporo, rather than Tokyo, due to heat concerns.
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