Athletics: Controversial Nike shoe worn by marathon champions set to be banned

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge with the Nike Vaporfly shoes.
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge with the Nike Vaporfly shoes. Photo credit: Nike

The Nike Vaporfly shoes, worn by both male and female marathon recordholers, are set to be banned.

According to The Times, World Athletics (WA) has assembled a panel of experts to review the shoe, as it considers prohibiting the use of some Vaporfly models in professional competition by the end of the month. 

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge wore the Vaporfly when he broke two hours in a special marathon attempt in Vienna last October, but also holds the official world best at 2h 01m 39s. The next day, compatriot Brigid Kosgei hacked 81 seconds off the women's world record (2h 14m 04s), also wearing the Vaporfly. 

The shoes have thick soles and carbon-fibre plates that act like springs to give runners more bounce, and some feel that gives competitors an unfair advantage.

"The panel is still deliberating, but we hope to be able to make an announcement by the end of the month," a World Athletics spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse, adding that any changes to the rules would then have to be approved by the WA council.

Australian marathon great Rob de Castella wants the changes, saying the footwear is not in the "spirit" of athletics.

"The concept of running with springs on your feet is just ludicrous - it definitely needs to be addressed," explained the 62-year-old, who holds the Oceanian marathon record.

"I'm not for technology where it is providing an unfair or unnatural advantage."

De Castella set the record during the 1986 Boston Marathon, completing the 42.195km distance in 2h 7m.

The New York Times reports that more than 40 percent of marathons completed in under three hours last year were by runners wearing a version of the shoes, either the Vaporfly 4% or Next%.

Kipchoge responded that he ran the time, not the shoes.

"I trained hard," he told The Daily Telegraph. "Technology is growing and we can't deny it - we must go with technology."

"In Formula One, Pirelli issues the tyres to all the cars, but Mercedes are the best one. 

"Why? It's the engine... it's the person.

"It's the person who is running, not the shoe. It's the person driving, not the person making the tyres."