Nike will release a version of its scrutinized, record-breaking marathon Vaporfly shoes — the “Alphafly” — at the end of this month. It will meet new legal standards to be used in competition such as the Olympics, according to the apparel giant.
On Wednesday, Nike announced that a new version of the Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% will be made available to the public and legally eligible to wear in official races.
World Athletics said last week that there is an immediate indefinite moratorium on any shoe that is thicker than 40 millimeters or contains more than one rigid embedded plate (of any material). World Athletics also ruled that any shoe used in competition, starting April 30, must have been available for purchase by any athlete on the open retail market for four months.
When Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to run a marathon in under two hours on Oct. 12 — in a non-sanctioned event — he wore a prototype of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, unusually tall shoes. That specific pair is slightly thicker than 40mm, but since it’s a larger shoe size than the 8.5 used to determine the 40mm standard, it would still be legal to use in competition, assuming it met availability standards, according to Nike.
On Oct. 13, fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei won the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04, shattering the 16-year-old women’s world record by 81 seconds. She wore a different Vaporfly version that remains legal, according to Nike.
“Where World Athletics has reason to believe that a type of shoe or specific technology may not be compliant with the rules or the spirit of the rules, it may submit the shoe or technology for study and may prohibit the use of the shoe or technology while it is under examination,” a release read.
World Athletics will establish a group to guide future research into shoe technology. It previously had vaguer rules regulating shoes.
“Any type of shoe used must be reasonably available to all in the spirit of the universality of athletics,” the old rules read. “Shoes must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage.”
Days after Kipchoge and Kosgei’s breakthroughs, World Athletics (then known as the IAAF) commissioned a group to review shoe technologies.
“It is clear that some forms of technology would provide an athlete with assistance that runs contrary to the values of the sport,” a statement read in October. “The challenge for the IAAF is to find the right balance in the technical rules between encouraging the development and use of new technologies in athletics and the preservation of the fundamental characteristics of the sport: accessibility, universality and fairness.”
Kipchoge, speaking three weeks after his sub-two-hour marathon, defended the shoes.
“I respect technology. I respect innovation,” he said. “The world is moving, and you can’t stop. We are moving with the world, and the world is changing. I expect the [World Athletics] committee will be respecting the change in the world, the innovation, the technology.”
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Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Kipchoge’s shoes would be illegal for being greater than 40mm.