Eliud Kipchoge broke the world record by 78 seconds in Berlin last year, while wearing a version of Nike’s Vaporfly shoe. He also became the first athlete to run a sub two-hour marathon last Saturday at Vienna. Though the time won’t enter the record books, it has raised questions whether footwear advances is resulting in technological doping, the same way Speedo’s LZR full-body suits in swimming revolutionized the sport and resulted in a large number of world records tumbling before it was banned.
In May 2017, Kipchoge made his first attempt to break the two-hour barrier but fell short by 26 seconds at the Monza racetrack. Back then, it was believed the version of the shoe which he wore — which is legal and sold in stores now — would have given him an advantage. They were called the Vaporfly Elite. The Vaporfly series of shoes, lab tests have shown subsequently, helps an athlete to be 4 per cent more efficient. Two weeks before Kipchoge’s feat in Vienna, Ethiopian great Kenesisa Bekele, another runner who uses the Vaporfly, came within two seconds of the former’s world record. A day after the two-hour barrier fell, Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei broke the 16-year-old women’s record at the Chicago marathon. The five fastest marathon timings have been posted by athletes using the Vaporfly series.
The latesT version of the shoe has not been released in the market but pictures on social media show that in addition to using patented foam called ZoomX, it also has a carbon-fibre plate/plates and two cushioning pods in the mid-sole. It is also not clear if the pods are fluid-filled or foam filled but on impact they are supposed to absorb the force of impact, distribute it to the carbon-fibre plates then provide a boost to the runner’s next step to ensure he gets a feeling of ‘bouncing’ instead of running.