After releasing in April 2019, the Nike Vaporfly Next% has been the most revolutionary shoe introduced to distance running within the last 50 years. At any long distance race, you can be sure to find many runners wearing these bright colored shoes.
According to Nike, these shoes have the ability to improve a runner's efficiency by over 4.2%. If you look at the top marathon times in the world, the top five times have been run wearing the Nike Next%. In October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge broke the legendary 2 hour marathon barrier wearing these shoes, but some critics are question whether these shoes should be allowed in competitions. With the 2020 Olympics coming up in just a few months, runners are sure to be wearing these shoes a for the marathon.
The IAAF, the governing body for sports, has very vague rules concerning shoes. They say that they, "may not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage."
Many people care claiming that the shoes are a type of "mechanical doping". They claim that the shoes are providing the same advantage that doping provides. The shoes have a new type of foam combined with a carbon fiber plate which provides support and bounce for runners. The science behind the shoe is unclear, but the shoe is changing the world of running. Many people might ask, "why don't all runners just wear these shoes then?", but it's not that simple. Many runners are sponsored by other brands, so they cannot wear these shows and get the same mechanical advantage.
There was also a similar situation to this in the swimming world when Speedo introduced their laser cut swimsuit. This suit was made with help from NASA and mimicked shark skin to give swimmers an advantage by reducing friction. This suit was eventually blocked from competition by FINA. The main reason was due to the amount of world records broken after the unveiling of this suit. Although the suit was banned, swimmers are still allowed to swim using the same material.
Some people are thinking of solutions. Jeff Burns has been researching this. He has concluded that there must be a limit placed in the height drop of the shoe's sole. He believes that these regulations will allow for a more level playing field. For the time being, we will just have to wait and see what will happen before the 2020 Olympics.
My Opinion: I think that the Vaporfly Next% should be allowed at the next Olympics. Even though it provides a mechanical advantage, I feel like improving technology is also a part of the sport that should not be ignored. Races used to be run on ash and dirt tracks. Now, people run on all weather tracks which also provide them with a mechanical advantage, yet these innovations were not blocked. I do agree with Burns that we should have a limit on the heel drop of these shoes. Without regulation, the sport may take a turn for the worse, and the IAAF should make regulations before it is too late.