Eliud Kipchoge has rejected suggestions that the next generation of game-changing Nike shoes violate the spirit of sport, even though he has conceded that they could give him a major advantage in Sunday’s London Marathon.
The world record holder confirmed that he would wear the Alphafly Nexts, which resemble platform shoes and are claimed to improve running economy by between 5-8%, for the first time in an official race.
There have been calls for the controversial running shoes to be banned, especially after the Kenyan used them to become the first person to break the two-hour barrier in an unofficial event in Vienna last October.
However, World Athletics has since ruled that such shoes are legal provided their stack height does not exceed 40mm and they obey certain other rules. Kipchoge insisted that it was time for critics of shoe technology to “open their hearts and move on”.
“We live in the 21st century and we need to accept change,” he said. “Development goes hand in hand with technology. The shoe is good. We are doing a press conference virtually, is that not technology? We should accept technology and marry technology.”
The Alphaflys are the latest in a line of Nike shoes, which employ a carbon plate and a special foam, that have helped the company’s athletes to dominate the marathon for the past four years. When asked whether that was fair, Kipchoge was unequivocal. “Absolutely, yes,” he replied.
Pressed on if it was unfair for athletes not sponsored by Nike, he added: “It’s good for Nike. On the other hand, it’s business. It’s good for Nike to be far higher than other companies as far as technology is concerned.”
However, the Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, who is also sponsored by the American shoe giant, admitted that that he would not be wearing the Alphaflys on Sunday because they had given him injuries in training.
“It’s really difficult to adapt to these shoes, especially with speed workouts,” said Bekele, who missed out on Kipchoge’s marathon world record of 2:01:39 by just two seconds at the Berlin Marathon last year.
“Several times I had some minor injuries, like a muscle stretch. Because the shoe is not stable under the foot. It’s really unshaped. It’s really soft. The muscle needs to adjust to the movement under it. It’s really difficult.
“Anybody cannot use the shoes,” added Bekele, who said he would use the less high-spec Nike Next4%s instead. “For walking or normal life, it’s OK, you can do it. But to perform hard work in the shoe it’s really difficult.
“Eliud already had these shoes before one year ago. All of us other athletes got them maybe six months ago. Many of us were locked at home. Because of Covid you could not train as you wanted. So I had some problems with the shoes because I couldn’t adapt to it.”
“Your muscles have to adjust to these shoes. It’s not like normal shoes. It’s really difficult. I tried to investigate it with other athletes and most of them had problems with these shoes, too.”
A London Marathon spokesman confirmed that checks on shoes from all companies have been ongoing since Monday. He also indicated that Kipchoge’s shoes were compliant.