The latest Nike shoe designs that have produced fast times and impressive results in international races, have spurred yet another debate about the advance of technology and the grey area where innovation meets extremely vague rules about what is considered unfair performance enhancement for the feet.
Where to draw the line of permissible assistance? Many sports have struggled with the answer. Swimming allowed record-setting, full-body suits, then banned them after the 2008 Beijing Olympics because they gave an unfair advantage in buoyancy and speed.
The shoes came in the colors of a tropical drink, lime and orange and pink, as if the logo ought to be an umbrella instead of a Nike swoosh. If the color scheme suggested frivolity, race results did not. The shoes cushioned the feet of all three medalists in the men’s marathon at the Rio Olympics last summer. Later, in the fall, they were worn by the winners of major marathons in Berlin, Chicago and New York.
The latest issue is shoes. Track’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, said in an email that it had received a number of inquiries about elite runners wearing new designs made by various companies. Its technical committee will meet within two weeks to “see if we need to change or review approvals.” Bret Schoolmeester, Nike’s senior director of global running footwear, said, “We’re very confident we’re doing things within the rules and above board.”
Recently, Nike unveiled a new shoe, a customized version of the one worn by the marathon winners in Rio de Janeiro and other recent high-profile races, as part of the company’s attempt to break 2 hours in the marathon in early May. Adidas, whose shoes have been worn by the last four men to set the world marathon record, also recently unveiled a shoe for its own, less publicized attempt to lower the current record from 2 hours 2 minutes 57 seconds to 1:59:59 or faster.