Commotion about competition shoes

19. April 2020

Due to the latest shoe developments by the company Nike, World Athletics, the international governing body, has been driven to redefine the rules for running shoes at elite marathons on 30 April. The most important points:

At the end of January, World Athletics announced a change to the rules for competition shoes. It was thus reacting to the polemics concerning the latest running shoe innovations from Nike. A World Athletics internal working group came to the conclusion that «independent studies are indicating that the new technology, which is used in the soles of road running shoes, offers a performance advantage».

World Athletics saw the danger this posed to equal opportunities and thus reacted. Here are the three main key points of the change in rules, which comes into effect on 30 April:

  1. The sole of a running shoe must not be thicker than 40 mm.
  2. From 30 April 2020, a new running shoe must be available on the market for at least four months before it may be used in the competition.
  3. Shoes may only have one plate in the sole. The plate may consist of several parts, but they must lie behind each other on one level and must not overlap.

It is obvious that World Athletics reacted to the hype around the Nike models Vaporfly4% and Vaporfly Next% and their influence on the running times at marathons. However, the new rules hardly change anything in this regard. Because except for the prototype with which Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour barrier at the Ineos 1:59 Challenge for the first time in Vienna in 2019, all previous Vaporfly models are also permitted with the new rules. World Athletics is in fact targeting future developments with these rules. In Vienna, Kipchoge used a shoe with a sole thickness of around 50 mm and several carbon plates. With the new rules, both are no longer permitted.