Nike unveil controversial Alphafly shoe – will they ruin running?
Records look set to tumble after Nike unveiled their controversial, but legal, Alphafly NEXT% shoe – a modified version of the shoe that propelled Eliud Kipchoge to a sub two-hour marathon.
Although Kipchoge's prototype shoes in Vienna were declared illegal by World Athletics on Friday, Nike have launched a retail version that complies with the new regulations.
The sport's governing body ruled that road shoes must have soles no thicker than 40mm and not contain more than one rigid, embedded plate.
Kipchoge's shoes and those used by Kenyan Brigid Kosgei to smash the women's marathon world record both contained triple carbon plates.
The new rules also state that, from April 30, any shoe used in competition must have been generally available to the public for four months.
The Alphafly succeeds the Vaporfly, which was claimed to boost running economy by four percent.
With additional reporting from Reuters
WHAT IS THE ALPHAFLY NEXT%?
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%Eurosport
The convolutedly-titled Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% is a shoe with a single full-length carbon plate and two Zoom Air pods, claiming to "improve cushioning and running economy".
"We are pleased the Nike Zoom Vaporfly series and Nike Zoom Alphafly Next% remain legal. We will continue our dialogue with World Athletics and the industry on new standards," Nike said in a statement.
The shoe is part of a wider range, with a new Viperfly sprint shoe designed specifically for the 100 metres also released. However, the Viperfly does not meet the new regulations, prompting Nike to announce they will modify it.
THE CASE FOR…
Like or loathe, the Alphafly debate has made athletics mainstream again. The sport is crying out for a star to carry it forward in the post-Bolt era – particularly after the damaging attendances at Doha 2019 – and while a controversial shoe is an unwanted poster star, it will undoubtedly boost interest. At least in the short-term.
The shoes are completely legal and will help runners of all abilities, or wealthy ones at least, push their personal bests to new limits.
THE CASE AGAINST...
Running is supposed to be simple.
- Competitive: Fastest person wins
- Non-competitive: Personal bests achieved by the hard work of an individual athlete
When technology intervenes, those basic principles are muddied. Not only will the sport become like Formula 1, where only those in the fastest cars can win, but it will trample on amateur running and the values of hard work.
It also feels rather convenient that five days after the new rules are announced, Nike release a shoe that conforms perfectly. Now non-Nike sponsored athletes have a major disadvantage, with other shoe companies having until April 30 to release a competitive alternative.
And spare a thought for those with a world or national record. Judging by Kipchoge and Kosgei’s achievements in similar – albeit now illegal – shoes, the records will tumble. Is that what athletics wants? Where record charts need a separate section for footwear?
"Sport has value because the results have a meaning that we create and accept using sometimes arbitrary lines or classifications. This is why, at the very highest ‘strategic’ level, men and women compete in separate categories – it ensures that the outcome of any sport is determined by the things that society, generally, has determined are meaningful. "