Running in Nike’s Vaporfly shoes, it took Ethiopia’s Abadel Yeshaneh one hour, four minutes, and 31 seconds to cross the finish line and win the Ras Al Khaimah women’s half marathon event in the UAE on February 21.
Yeshaneh eclipsed Kenya’s Joycline Jepkosgei’s 2017 record by 31 seconds.
The second place was grabbed by Brigid Kosgei, who also broke Jepkosgei’s record by two seconds wearing Vaporfly shoes in the annual half marathon.
For the athletes, a win of such capacity could surely come out as a surprise. In a BBC report, Yeshaneh, whose previous record was more than a minute slower than her new feat on February 21, said that she “didn’t imagine this result”.
The shoes have more to do than a little surprise. Nike has been a popular choice of some of the fastest runners in the world, and imperatively, Nike has come under scrutiny for using performance-enhancing effects in its shoes. In recent years, Nike’s Vaporfly shoes have smashed records around the world and have come under special attention. Now, the World Athletics who have brought tighter regulations around these shoes.
What makes the Vaporfly controversial?
Over the last year, Vaporfly athletes claimed 31 of 36 top-three finishes in major marathons.
It is running all over the record book – starting by winning prototype runs. It claims to add a 4 percent improvement to an athlete’s performance. Foam and a carbon plate on the Vaporfly are known to work together to give the extra momentum to the runner.
The shoes invited scrutiny in October after Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya broke the two-hour barrier in a race, and Brigid Kosgei broke the women’s world record by 81 seconds.
Considering how new shoe designs could affect competition at the top-level, people in the running community have voiced out their opinions on how it could be unfair for the health of the sport.
Former British Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi previously told BBC Sport that there’s no longer a fair competition. She added that it’s the WA’s responsibility to ensure that the rules are fair and square to restore the trust of fans and sponsors after the association of running with doping.
In light of the repulsion, the new regulations call for shoes developed after April 30 to be available in the open market for at least four months before athletes can use them for competing. No prototypes can be used.
There has also been a ban on any shoe that has a sole thicker than 40mm. While there’s an additional plate allowed for shoes with spikes, it has been stated that the sole cannot be thicker than 30mm if the shoe is to go with spikes.
The new guidelines have added some clarity on what shoe manufacturers cannot do with their new releases if they have to see them in WA-certified races. Still, for shoe manufacturers, the quest for innovation might not stop here.
For Nike, the race doesn’t end here as it looks eager to explore more possibilities of improving efficiency with its design. It has been busy testing new versions of its shoes in recent months. The new members of the Next% family will come with full-length carbon plates to stabilise the steps and provide propulsion and energy return during toe-off.
The shoes haven’t been released by Nike yet, but they are expected to come out just in time for the Summer Olympics 2020 in Tokyo where they could be key players.