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r/todayilearned
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Posted by2 months ago
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TIL that Nike created a pair of shoes that were so advanced, they were banned from the Olympics because they were considered as technological doping.The Alphaflys, or “the shoe that broke running”, as sports scientist Dr Ross Tuckercalled them, contain tech designed to deliver greater energy return

2.2k comments
86% Upvoted
level 1

Around the time of the "Breaking 2" experiment where Nike pulled out all the stops to see if an athlete could break the 2 hour marathon barrier, there was a huge leap in shoe R&D and Nike developed a new style of running shoe that utilized a carbon plate and super light, high energy return foam that supposedly increased running efficiency by 4% (hence the name Vaporfly 4%). Eluid Kipchoge did end up breaking the 2 hour barrier (in a tightly controlled environment using some advantages that disqualified it from being an official record but he was still the first human to run the distance under 2 hours). Immediately after the shoe became commercially available, nearly every elite runner and a lot of amateurs too were wearing Vaporflys.

It set off a flurry of new advancements in shoe technology as other brands tried to reclaim their piece of the market. We've seen a huge shift away from minimalist racing shoes that were all the rage since Born to Run was published and became a sensation in the 2000s. Now most competition shoes utilize the carbon plate and ever increasing amounts of kinetic foam.

Of course, this all came with controversy as people worried that the technology advancements were happening too fast, that it gave certain athletes who had access to non-commercially available "supershoes" an unfair advantage, so the committee responsible for international running regulations put some guidelines in place. The main one being limits on the "stack height", or amount of foam cushioning a shoe was allowed to have. I believe the limit is now 40mm, which conveniently was exactly the height of Nike's most advanced racing shoe on the market at the time.

4.8k
level 2

The running shoe market is insane. The ASICS Metaspeed Sky+/Edge+ and Nike’s Alphafly 2 sell out the minute more of them become available.

Shoutout to r/runningshoegeeks for emptying my wallet every couple of months

1.5k
level 2

They also limited the number of carbon plates allowed to just 1 (one). The best shoes Nike had, which were used for breaking the 2 hour barrier, had 3 carbon plates in it.

The reason I mention it is because of your insinuation that they just set the guidelines to fit exactly with the shoes Nike had. That's not accurate.

954
level 2

Adidas went ahead and released a shoe with illegal stack height over 40 mm anyway, which led to some unfortunate DQs.

197
level 2

shift away from minimalist racing shoes

That would explain why I can't find super thin tiny shoes anymore. I loved the style of the shoe barely being there 😔

274
level 2

You are slightly confusing the two attempts. On the first attempt, wearing vaporflys, he failed. On the second attempt wearing alphaflys (with all pacers wearing vaporflys) he succeeded. Everyone flocked to get the vaporflys after his first attempt where he failed.

9
level 2

I went and watched the Olympic marathon trials in February 2020 and I believe 9 of the top ten runners had the Nike "cheaterflies". Athletes sponsored by other companies (Adidas, Mizuno, etc) allowed their athletes to run in the Nike shoes with the Nike logo taped over because their competitive products weren't ready yet, and they knew their athletes had the best chance at qualifying if they wore the Nikes

6
level 2

This reminds me of the controversy in golf equipment. So much R&D have gone into golf balls and clubs that it has required courses to modify to try and keep them still competitive. One course made in the 80s is famous for being a 3-5 stroke course because there is a line of trees in the way and you have to snake around them.

Someone decided to just shoot over the trees and was able to beat the course in two strokes. They now furthered the starting spot and added more trees to discourage people from doing that.

The better equipment has made distance and accuracy go way up and has even made controlling the ball for putting easier.

Modern day Amateurs can be considered pros from the 70s.

5
level 2

So was “Born to Run” wrong about minimalist shoes?

It was a fantastic, very entertaining book, but I always wondered if the science continued to back up its claims

4
level 2

Breakin 2: Shoe Technology Boogaloo

4
level 2

TIL. No wonder that pair of Trail Gloves I just bought it so unlike the ones I wore 10 years ago.

17
level 2

Just an addition, with breaking 2, he didnt break sub 2 hours with the vapourfly 4%. He ended up breaking it in the Ineos 159 Challenge (essentially breaking 2 part 2) where nike essentially upgraded the shoe into the alpha fly next %, wearing that shoe under the Ineos 159 challenge, he broke 2.

3
level 2

Do these translate to just comfort for normal walking around? My feet hurt and I hate shoes.

3
level 2

Kipchoge is a freak of nature. I wonder if the sub 2 hour could happen with any other runners

2

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