Nike sneakers, which set a world record, equated to doping. Now you can’t run marathons in them

Athletes Association revised the rules of the competition and banned the use of sneakers that improve athletes’ results.

Eliud Kipchoge during the marathon Photo by Reuters

On October 12, 2019, Eliud Kipchoge was the first in the world to run a 42.2-kilometer marathon in less than 2 hours. He broke the world record for Nike Vaporfly Alphas sneakers, now called “technological doping.” This model of sneakers is not available for buyers – Nike developed a prototype specifically for the athlete to break the world record in them.

The International Athletic Federation Association believes that Nike creates sneakers in violation of the rules, which is why athletes win in their shoes more often than others. The association and journalists tested the technology for creating Nike Vaporfly and found that these sneakers allow you to run 4% faster than regular ones.

On January 31, 2020, the Athletics Association banned Nike Vaporfly AlphaFly sneakers and those that were on sale for less than four months. The association also intends to exercise strict control at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Nike released sneakers giving athletes a real competitive edge

In 2017, Nike launched the Vaporflys running shoe range from ZoomX’s special lightweight foam sole with a carbon fiber plate. The company conducted studies that proved that shoes can reduce energy consumption during running by an average of 4% due to the spring effect and high stability.

Nike set a goal to create such a technological model that would allow you to run a marathon in less than two hours. After the first ZoomX Vaporfly 4%, Nike released an updated version of ZoomX Vaporfly Next%.

For several years, Vaporflys have become one of the most popular running models, and at the start of sales there was a shortage of sneakers. In the UK, the first version of Vaporfly was sold out so quickly that resellers began to sell shoes four times more expensive – at 1,252.78 United States Dollar

Eliud Kipchoge at the finish of the marathon, setting a new record Photo by Lisi Nisner, Reuters

In 2018, in Nike Vaporflys shoes, Eliud Kipchoge broke the men’s world record in the Berlin marathon, having run it in 2 hours 01 minute. In October 2019, he was the first in the world to meet the deadline at 2 o’clock, but the record was not officially registered, because Kipchoghe participated in a closed race, the results of which are not taken into account. This time, the athlete ran in Nike Vaporfly Alphas sneakers, which are not on sale.

A 50 mm high Nike Vaporfly Alphas sole consists of three carbon fiber plates and a layer of dense foam, which allows you to increase running speed and endurance compared to previous versions of sneakers – Zoom Vaporfly 4 and ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. At the bottom of these versions is one plate, and its height is 31 and 36 millimeters.

In 2019, Bridget Cosgey set a women’s world record with a result of 2 hours 14 minutes – 81 seconds faster than the previous record holder. She also ran in Nike sneakers, but ZoomX Vaporfly Next% models.

In 2019, 31 of 36 marathon winners ran in Nike Vaporfly sneakers. The large number of winners among the owners of this model of sneakers forced the International Association of Athletics Federations to check the creation technology and find out if Nike has an advantage over other running sneakers.

Athletes Association fears that in tournaments technical equipment will come to the fore instead of skills

In 2008, the Athletes Association attempted to remove Athlete Oscar Pistorius from the competition due to his carbon fiber prostheses. They believed that prostheses create the effect of a spring, due to which Oscar had an advantage over other athletes and could run faster. Then the Sports Court forbade the removal of the athlete, since the defects of the prostheses leveled their benefits.

Until November 2019, the association prohibited the use of springs in running shoes, and the new list of rules included not only springs, but also any technological devices that could potentially give an advantage.According to the association, the type of shoes athletes use should be accessible to everyone..


The New York Times decided to check the Nike running shoes of two models: Zoom Vaporfly 4% and ZoomX Vaporfly Next% to find out if they affect the results of the runners. In December 2019, she published the results of the study. From them it is clear that Nike allows athletes to run 4-5% faster than regular sneakers. The authors of the study said that in the competition of two marathon runners of the same level, a runner in Zoom Vaporfly 4% or ZoomX Vaporfly Next% will have a significant advantage.

A spokesperson for the Athletes Association told NBC News that technical experts, athletes, and health and science experts had been investigating for several months whether Nike Vaporflys really benefits athletes.

On January 31, 2020, the association announced changes to the regulations.

From April 30, 2020, sneakers must be on sale for at least four months so that the competitor can wear them for the competition.

If some shoes cause doubts among the athletes’ association, they have the right to conduct a technological examination.

The sole of the shoe for the competition should not exceed 40 millimeters, and the plate in it can be only one. Thus, the Nike Vaporfly Alphas model, in which Eliud Kipchoge broke the world record, is now banned in competitions. They were called “technological doping.”

The association also introduced a moratorium on the invention of new technologies in creating sneakers until the end of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Our duty is to maintain the integrity of the competition so that the shoes worn by athletes do not give any unfair advantage.Sebastian CoePresident of the International Athletics Federation

Opinions on the ban on new technologies are divided

Opinions were divided among the sports community: some support the development of technology as an integral part of modern life, others consider this an inequality.

Sports technologist Bryce Dyer said Nike sneakers are tantamount to “using a gun during a knife fight.” Former Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi in a conversation with BBC Sport expressed fears that in the future athletes will compete not in who is the best athlete, but in who has the best shoes.

“World athletics should provide a level playing field for everyone. Honestly, it’s hard to understand how someone who don’t put on Vaporflys in Tokyo will win medals, ”Yamauchi said.

Runner Eliud Kipchoge believes that he wins because he is training hard. And new technologies are applied in any field and do not create inequality.

The association of athletes believe that running is one of the few sports that didn’t require large investments for training. When athletes compete in sneakers that are not even available on the open market, the opportunity to enter this sport is reduced.

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