IT is no surprise that sports technology is moving forward at a pretty rapid pace and so more and more, the question of when to put the brakes on is arising.

Last week, it was announced that Nike’s new running shoe, the Vaporfly prototype, which Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge wore when he became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours in October of last year, will be banned.

However, other shoes in Nike’s Vaporfly range have not been banned, with the new rules stating that any new shoe technology developed after 30 April will have to be available on the open market for four months before an athlete can use it in competition.

World Athletics has also introduced an immediate ban on any shoes that have a sole thicker than 40mm and there is an immediate, but indefinite on any shoe that contains more than one “rigid embedded plate or blade”.

These rulings beg the question though of where should the line be drawn when it comes to technology?

Kipchoge’s sub-two hour run was historic, perhaps even more so than Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile barrier in 1954. There is little doubt that the primary factor in the Kenyan’s breathtaking run was his own talent, but there are also few who would suggest that his shoes played no a part.

To highlight the importance of the trainers, just a few days after his run in Vienna, Kipchoge’s compatriot, Brigid Kosgei, wore her own version of the Vaporfly prototype when she broke Paula Radcliffe’s long-standing women’s marathon world record in Chicago.

However, is it fair to ban these shoes; after all, it was only a pair of trainers so how much difference can they make? Technology has made huge strides in the past decade so it stands to reason that there will be more progress in the coming years. So is it right that governing bodies slow this progress?

Tests have shown that Nike’s Vaporfly shoes can improve performance by up to five percent. In the world of elite sport, in which improvements are more often than not gauged in one percent increments, this is a monumental benefit.

So are these shoes giving athletes an unfair advantage? Technical doping is a term that is thrown about when it comes to improvements in equipment but it’s actual meaning remains somewhat unclear. And so to know where to draw the line with the progress of equipment is almost impossible.

There is something of a precedent in swimming - in 2008, Speedo introduced the LZR Racer, a full body suit that saw those wearing it make vast improvements in their times. However, just two years later, the suit was banned from competition as it was deemed to be giving its wearers an unfair advantage. So are Nike’s trainers similarly unfair?

My initial reaction was to say no, wearing particular shoes cannot be an unfair advantage over the field. In my mind, this issue is entirely different from doping, which has caused so much damage to the reputation of sport over the years.

But the more I delved into these shoes and the benefits they can bring, the more I was convinced they should be banned, and the sooner the better.

Any technology that is widely available should be, and is, permitted. But these Nike shoes are, clearly, only available to those who the sportswear giant deem worthy of them.

And so any athlete who is not a Nike athlete is at a disadvantage before the race even begins. Is this what sport is about? I would suggest not.

Jo Pavey, the English distance runner who is a five-time Olympian has talked in recent weeks of how she believes her dream of reaching a sixth Olympics is almost over before it has begun because of her contract with another sportswear company which, clearly, precludes her from wearing Nike’s revolutionary shoes.

So Pavey, and dozens of others like her who are not wearing the Vaporfly, know that the hours and hours of training they have put in may still see them fall short not on ability, but as a result of not having the right technology at their disposal.

Is this really what sport should be about? Advances in technology are great, as long as they don’t begin to impact unfairly on the final outcome.

For now, shoe technology is back to having a minimal impact. What will be the next piece of technology that pushes the boundaries though?


In recent years, women have been slowly but surely elbowing their way into sports which have traditionally been exclusively male domains and last weekend, there was more positive news.

On Sunday, Katie Sowers, who is assistant coach of the San Francisco 49ers, made history by becoming the first female to coach a team in the Superbowl.

Her side may have been defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs but Sowers is significant in showing that women are just as capable in what are traditionally male-dominated sports.

Incidentally, Sowers is also the first openly LBGT coach to reach the Super Bowl, according to the NFL and so her presence was significant for a number of reasons.

There is still a way to go when it comes to female coaches working with male athletes – and Sowers remains very much in the minority – but she proves that progress is being made. Let’s hope she’s started something of a trend.