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Nike’s Controversial Running Shoe Will Reportedly Avoid Ban

World Athletics will not impose a blanket ban on Nike Vaporfly sneakers when it hands down its decision on Friday, multiple outlets have reported.

According to The Guardian, the governing body will instead place a temporary hold on the development of further sneaker tech, to remain in effect until after the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. However, the shoe isn’t completely in the clear yet. World Athletics is launching more extensive research to determine whether the Vaporfly gives runners an unfair advantage, according to The Guardian.

In October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge, clad in a pair of unreleased Nike Next% Vaporfly sneakers, ran the marathon distance in less than two hours, becoming the first runner to do so. The two-hour mark, like the four-minute mile, has long served as a symbolic challenge to how fast a person can possibly run, and Kipchoge’s win turned lore into reality.

Following Kipchoge’s record, insiders began questioning the validity of his time, arguing that the next-generation tech in his sneakers aided him to reach his speedy finish. Notably, Kipchoge’s time was also controversial due to the number of pacemakers who ran with him in alternate groups and did not count as a world record for this reason. The shoes employ responsive cushioning and a carbon-fiber plate that provide a sensation of propulsion, which allows runners both to exert less energy and to make more of the energy expended, resulting in faster times.

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Other brands have also used carbon-fiber plate tech. For instance, Hoka One One has a shoe in stores now, the Carbon X, which features a carbon-fiber plate and sells for $180; in comparison, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% that’s on the market retails for $250. Meanwhile, Naperville Running Co. owner Kris Hartner told FN he’s seen upcoming collections featuring similar technology from brands such as Brooks, Saucony, Asics and New Balance.

Despite brands’ push to create carbon-fiber plate shoes, the World Athletics ruling won’t necessarily have a major impact on overall running shoe sales for major athletics players, The NPD Group senior sports industry adviser Matt Powell told FN.

“I do not see a material impact on this ruling,” said Powell. “This [Nike Next%] shoe is too expensive to be commercial.”

Hartner concurred, explaining that the higher price point means the carbon-fiber plate styles aren’t the most purchased or most stocked — with the Vaporfly accounting for just 5% or 10% of his buys from Nike.

“If they go away, we’ll just put those dollars into other shoes,” Hartner said.

Nike did not respond to a request for comment.

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