Some variants of Nike’s Vaporfly running shoes have been outlawed for elite competition and strict limits on the technology developed for any future shoes introduced after World Athletics announced significant changes to its rules on Friday.
The sport’s governing body (WA) said that with immediate effect and for elite competition only, road shoes must have soles no thicker than 40mm and not contain more than one rigid, embedded plate.
The Vaporfly variants used by Eliud Kipchoge to run the first sub-two-hour marathon and by fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei to smash the women’s marathon world record both contained triple carbon plates inside thick, ultra-compressed foam, said by Nike to help improve running economy by up to four percent.
The new rules also state that, from April 30, any shoe used in elite competition must have been generally available to the public for four months – putting paid to the use by Nike and others of prototypes by their athletes in major races.
There will also be new rules governing the construction of track spikes.
WA’s review concluded that the new technology “may provide a performance advantage and could raise concerns that it might threaten the integrity of the sport”.
WA will now establish an expert working group to guide future research into shoe technology and to assess new shoes that emerge on the market.
Nike did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment on the decision.
“It is not our job to regulate the entire sports shoe market but it is our duty to preserve the integrity of elite competition by ensuring that the shoes worn by elite athletes in competition do not offer any unfair assistance or advantage,” WA President Sebastian Coe said in a statement.
“As we enter the Olympic year, we don’t believe we can rule out shoes that have been generally available for a considerable period of time, but we can draw a line by prohibiting the use of shoes that go further than what is currently on the market while we investigate further.
“I believe these new rules strike the right balance by offering certainty to athletes and manufacturers as they prepare for Tokyo 2020, while addressing the concerns that have been raised about shoe technology.”