A post shared on Twitter claims to show an image of Nike shoes that the World Athletics has allegedly banned.
The type of shoes on the image are the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%.
World Athletics, formerly known as the International Association for Athletics Federation (IAAF) is the body in charge of governing the sports of athletics among other sports. This includes setting guidelines for the type of shoe athletes are allowed to compete in.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, also known as the Alphafly, is one of the latest Nike shoe products in the market, released in mid-2020. In what Nike describes as the “ultimate test run”, Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge in October 2019 broke the world marathon record while wearing the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%. The shoe is feted for being engineered to the specifications of world-class runners.
The Alphafly has been critiqued for posing unfair competition in athletics as it is said to improve an athlete’s performance by 4%. This reportedly gave Kipchoge an added advantage as he had worn a prototype of the Alphafly when he broke the world marathon record at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, an attempt to run the 42-kilometre marathon in under 2 hours.
A BBC report reveals that 31 of 36 top-three finishes in major marathons in 2019 wore a similar make of Nike shoes – the Vaporfly. In the same month, Brigid Kosgei broke the women’s marathon record when wearing the Vaporfly. Reuters published a list of athletes who won top positions in marathons when wearing the Vaporfly.
In a statement dated January 30, 2020, World Athletics announced that it has amended its rules governing competition shoes for athletes. Part of the amended rules requires that shoes used in a competition must have been available for purchase on the open retail market four months before the competition.
On August 13, World Athletics released a list of shoes approved for competitions. The Alphafly is part of the approved shoes.
The Alphafly, whose sole is said to be 39.5 millimetres (mm) thick can only be worn on road competitions, where the required maximum sole should be 40mm thick. This is the only competition where the Alphafly can be worn as it has been ruled out for track of all track competitions (requiring a maximum sole of 20-25mm thick) and cross-country competitions (25mm).
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe is in the statement announcing the amended rules quoted saying: “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.”