Nike shoe debate rages as runners weigh benefits at US Olympic trials

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Nike launched a new version of its Alphafly shoe earlier this month that complies with new rules introduced by the governing body that limit the use of carbon plates and sole thickness for elite racing.

View of athletes wearing the Nike Vaporfly shoe during the Dubai Marathon race on January 24, 2020 (Reuters)

The Nike Vaporfly shoe gained attention in October when Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier wearing a pair, and various versions of it have featured in other record-breaking races since.

“It’s hard to argue that they don’t offer an advantage just because of the 500 women who run, 480 will be wearing Vaporflys,” said Kellyn Taylor, a HOKA ONE ONE sponsored marathoner who is considered one of the best competitors in the field of women.

“Technology is important. I think he should always improve, but I think there is a cap, “said Taylor, who was sixth in the 2016 trials.” I think the question is, ‘have we reached this? “”

While many top competitors, like Taylor, are bound by sponsorship agreements to wear specific brands on race day, unsponsored athletes such as Jake Riley, who has the fifth fastest qualifying time at men, are free to run in any shoe.

Riley played down rumors that he turned down lucrative sponsorship deals to retain his freelance status, telling reporters this week: “There was a little bit of interest but not a ton, so we decided to keep the options open. “

He plans to wear a pair of carbon-plated Nikes on Saturday, as he did to compete in the Chicago Marathon in 2019, where he was the top American.

“The guys I was competing against were also wearing some sort of carbon fiber clad shoe and I was able to compete with them and feel strong,” said Riley. “It’s fairer (by the way) to bring the playing field to a level playing field.”

Jared Ward, a Saucony athlete who placed sixth in Rio, echoed the frustrations of many of his fellow athletes that the shoe debate has become so central to their sport.

“One thing we don’t talk about with these shoes is that some people respond to them and some don’t,” Ward said. “One great thing we need to answer when it comes to shoe technology is, ‘can we make a shoe for a specific runner, as opposed to a shoe that is better on average? “

“I’m delighted that the shoes are at least calming down enough that we can get the conversation back to the athletes running in the shoes.”

Nike launched a new version of its Alphafly shoe earlier this month that complies with new rules introduced by the governing body that limit the use of carbon plates and sole thickness for elite racing.

“We are delighted that the Nike Zoom Vaporfly series and Nike Zoom Alphafly NEXT% remain legal,” Nike said at the time. “We will continue our dialogue with World Athletics and the industry on the new standards.”

Other shoe manufacturers such as HOKA and Brooks, which have their own roster of top athletes competing on Saturday, have also embraced the use of carbon plates in some of their models.

Des Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon winner, will wear a pair of new Brooks Hyperion Elite 2s on Saturday as she aims to set a third consecutive Olympic marathon record.

“I’m confident in the shoes I’ve had and I’ve done it before,” Linden said. “I can’t control what someone else is wearing.”

Source: Reuters


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