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How Nike’s Controversial Vaporfly Shoes Are Creating Buzz for Other Brands

A ruling by World Athletics has spared Nike’s Vaporfly running sneakers from receiving a ban ahead of the Tokyo Olympics but the impact stemming from the controversial footwear is likely to reverberate across the industry for some time.

And, for some of the athletic giant’s competition, that’s a good thing.

“[The talk about Vaporfly] is creating more awareness and as we enter the market [with new performance product],” Saucony senior director of product marketing Ted Fitzpatrick told FN at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver on Thursday.

Over the past few weeks, World Athletics had been into weather the technology in Nike’s Vaporfly line gives wearers an unfair advantage. The sneakers feature carbon-fiber plates that when paired with responsive cushioning gives the runner the feeling of propulsion. This allows wearers to use less energy and exert it with more efficiency.

Saucony is one of several running brands in the marketplace to utilize similar carbon-fiber plate tech in pinnacle performance product. Because people see Nike runners benefitting from its version of the technology, consumers have become more intrigued in what Saucony is offering, suggested Fitzpatrick.

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“The promise of running faster resonates with everybody, not just trying to quality for the Olympic trials … Everyone is looking to get better and that’s the unlock we get,” Fitzpatrick said.

The shoe that runners are waiting to see from Saucony with similar tech is the Endorphin Pro. The style features the brand’s lightweight and responsive Pwrrun PB midsole, which consists of two layers of cushioning with a carbon-fiber plate between them.

“There’s more cushioning, a higher rate of energy return than a standard midsole, and its lighter in weight,” Fitzpatrick said. “And there’s a faster roll or transition that creates a more efficient platform for the runner without compromising cushioning. [Runners will] run more efficiently with less wear and tear.”

He continued, “We’re seeing this through results running marathons, half marathons and different performances like Jared Ward and his performances in Boston and New York [as well as] Parker Stinson setting the American record for 25k last May in Michigan.”

The Endorphin Pro arrives June 1 and will retail for $200.

Despite talk of a ban, Fitzpatrick said Saucony will continue to innovate and seek better-performing technology that will benefit runners.

“Until we get clear cut guidelines or rules [from World Athletics] it’s tough to know what’s going to happen, so we’re going to continue to look at what the athlete needs and look through our innovation and supply chain to figure out what’s the best solution to solve the problem for the runner,” Fitzpatrick said.

Saucony and Nike aren’t the only two brands tinkering with carbon-fiber plates to benefit runners. Hoka One One has a shoe in the market now, the Carbon X, which features a carbon-fiber plate to offer the runner a smooth transition. (The Hoka One One Carbon X retails for $180.)

World Athletics today announced major amendments to its rules on footwear worn in elite competition — the outcome served to spare Nike’s Vaporfly for now but does impose a ban on shoes with soles thicker than 40 millimeters or shoes that contain more than one plate. That limit is greater than the 36-millimeter sole of the Vaporfly, which also has a single embedded plate.

“It is not our job to regulate the entire sports shoe market, but it is our duty to preserve the integrity of elite competition by ensuring that the shoes worn by elite athletes in competition do not offer any unfair assistance or advantage,” said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.

The new regulations also state that, starting April 30, any shoe to be used in competition must have been available for purchase on the retail market for a period of four months, effectively restricting the use of prototypes.

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