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Sport and Fitness

Nike’s most controversial running shoe

Words by Nathan Irvine

Running machines.

Since the dawn of competitive sporting events, athletes have always wanted to get ahead of their rivals. Training longer and harder than the rest only takes people so far. It’s one of the reasons that doping in sports has been such an epidemic over the last few decades. However, advances in technology has created a huge grey area for what is right and wrong in gaining the upper hand.

When distance runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the sub-two hour marathon time in 2019, the applause was short-lived. What then became the focus of this amazing feat was the shoe he was wearing, specifically the rather wordy Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%.

While the shoe didn’t contain any cheeky motors to propel the Kenyan to Roadrunner-esque speeds, the combination of futuristic tech in themĀ didĀ help to break the record.

Such is the controversy surrounding the controversial running shoe, rival brands wanted Nike’s hot-stepper to be banned from World Athletics.

Eliud Kipchoge after putting in a sub-two hour marathon race time.

1

Nike Eliud Kipchoge after breaking the record time for running a marathon.

Mine, all mine

It’s unsurprising that they want the Alphafly banned. It’s apparently capable of making people run upto 7-8 percent faster than if they were wearing a rival shoe. The reason why other sportswear manufacturers are up in arms, is because the tech used in the Alphafly has been patented by Nike, which means everyone else is locked out of using it. And thus the term “technical doping” was coined.

A full-length carbon plate, Nike ZoomX cushioning and Zoom AirPods (not to be mistaken by Apple’s earphone version) are the tech bits in question. But despite the protests, the World Athletics deemed the running shoe eligible for its events, which is sure to stoke up more animosity.

Sour grapes?

Although controversial, Nike is still playing within the rules set to everyone else. Just because the Alphafly is packed with patents, shouldn’t diminish the fact that these shoes are a technical marvel. Who wouldn’t want to keep that type of tech to themselves?

Almost hilariously, Nike is set to launch the Viperfly series geared specifically for sprinters, but this actually does fall outside of the World Athletics committee regulations. We’ve already pre-ordered some.

For the average Joe, this is great news. Now if you want to smash a personal best running time, you can simply change your shoe and shave the seconds off.

What Nike has done is force its rivals to come up with a clever, better alternative. It keeps innovation within the world of sportswear at the top of every brand’s agenda. And if the arms race for the fastest shoe around continues apace, we might just see sub-one hour marathons in the future.

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