Pretty Vaporfly for a Banned Guy

Nike’s Vaporfly Sneakers Will Adorn Feet at the Olympics

by Kinsey Grant

Critics called the Vaporfly advantage “technological doping" Francis Scialabba

Following the trajectory of every great athlete—years of training, daily Wheaties, and approval from the world governing body for track and field—Nike’s Vaporfly sneakers will appear at the Tokyo Olympics this summer after all.

The backstory: The $250 high-tech shoes were criticized starting in October after one marathoner broke the two-hour barrier and another shattered the women’s world record by 81 seconds (forever in competitive marathoning), both while wearing Vaporflys.

  • Critics called the Vaporfly advantage “technological doping.”

Yesterday, the World Athletics federation issued modifications designed to “protect the integrity of the sport” but punted on making an official ruling.

  • Beginning April 30, shoes looking to get foot time in high-stakes competitions like the Olympics must be available for sale on the open retail market for at least four months.
  • World Athletics is also regulating design specs like sole thickness.

That means the current Vaporfly model isn’t banned at the elite level, at least for now.

Why can’t we all just switch to Velcro?

Because Vaporfly isn’t your average sneaker (or tennis shoe). It uses a carbon plate designed to literally put a spring in your step.

  • Over the last 13 months, runners wearing Vaporfly shoes have recorded the five fastest marathon times ever.
  • The number of Adidas-sponsored runners winning major marathons has been chopped in half since the Vaporfly launched.

Big picture: Nike and its rivals are locked in an arms race to roll out the highest-tech gear for elite athletes and earn screen time at mega-events like the Olympics.

Looking ahead…any brand hoping to top Vaporfly’s promise of a 4% increase in efficiency before the Tokyo Olympics better hop to—the games begin July 24.

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