IAAF steps up investigation into fears over springs in Nike running shoes

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The IAAF is to investigate whether the next generation of marathon shoes should be banned amid concerns that some may contain illegal springs

The IAAF is to beef up its investigations into the next generation of marathon shoes, amid concerns some may contain illegal springs.

The potential intervention by athletics governing body came on the working day Nike exposed the design of its new Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoe, to be used by athletes attempting to break two hours for the marathon, will contain a special carbon fibre plate in its sole.

A spokesman for Nike has told the Guardian the shoe, which the company believes constructs runners 4% more efficient compared to its previous fastest marathon trainer, adheres to the specifications of the International Association of Athletics Federations. When the Guardian contacted the IAAF to ask whether Nikes carbon fibre plate was legal, a spokesman said it was interested in its technical advances but wanted to make sure they and shoes from other manufacturers conformed to its rules.

We are aware of the supposition around the shoe and have received inquiries about new designs of shoes currently being worn by upper-class athletes, said a spokesman. However, this is not links between simply one producer. There is development in shoe tech across the board.

Because of this supposition and the increased interest in the development in this area the IAAF is going to discuss shoe approval processes as defined by the competition rules as part of the agenda at the IAAF Technical Committee in two weeks time in Zaragoza, Spain, to see if we need to change or review approvals.

Kenenisa Bekele in action during the Dubai Marathon in January 2017. Photograph: Giancarlo Colombo/ A.G.Giancarlo Colombo

There has been growing speculation about Nike footwear over the past year, with the former Nike Oregon Project member Steve Magness and the athletics scientist Ross Tucker questioning whether springs were used in the shoes worn by the Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele at the Dubai marathon last month.

Those rumors have also been fuelled by a prototype for a Nike shoe that was filed at the US patent office on 4 May 2016, which talks about an article of footwear may include an upper, an outsole and a spring plate.

A Nike spokesman insists Bekele wore a legal shoe, which the Guardian understands has furthermore been tested in train by Mo Farah. Bekele was testing a prototype racing flat that weve been working on for nearly two years, the spokesman said. It adheres to IAAF requirements. Athletes including Galen Rupp, Eliud Kipchoge, Amy Hastings and Shalane Flanagan also tested and competed in the shoe.

Nike has also disclosed its ambitious project to break the two-hour mark for the marathon will take place afterwards this spring at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza complex in northern Italy, on a 2.4 km course. The course has been selected because the average temperature is expected to be around 12 C with very little gale, which is ideal for racing.

Three Nike athletes have been training for the endeavor, including the double London marathon winner and Olympic champion Kipchoge. However most experts believe the attempt to go under two hours for the marathon is more promoting Nikes new scope of shoes than a serious endeavor on a record that few believe can be broken under IAAF rules.

A Nike spokesman added: The course is likely to be IAAF ratified and will meet to all marathon course requirements, including independently measured course distance, start versus finish location and course elevation. However, the actual attempt will not be an officially sanctioned world record. We believe it will show the health risks to breaking it and enable future official hours to fall.

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