Liz McColgan hints asterisk should accompany records set in Nike’s controversial Alphafly shoes

Liz McColgan has reignited the debate over Nike’s controversial Alphafly running shoes.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 4:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 4:39 pm
Liz McColgan says all athletes should have access to race in the same technical shoes no matter what brand.
Liz McColgan says all athletes should have access to race in the same technical shoes no matter what brand.

The Scottish athletics great has suggested that those who set new records wearing the carbon-plated trainers should have an asterisk by their name.

Nike has revolutionised athletics in recent years with its shoe technology. The Nike Vaporfly and Next% have helped elite athletes to shatter world marathon records while allowing club runners to chalk up personal bests.

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The trainers have been described as “carbon-plated rocket boots” and feature a thick layer of highly responsive Nike-patented foam in the midsole as well as an embedded carbon-fibre plate. They combine to produce a ‘spring’ effect that ensures far less energy is lost with each step.

The American company’s latest shoe, the Alphafly, takes on the technology and features three carbon-fibre plates.

Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world record holder, wore them at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge last October when he ran the marathon distance at a special event in Vienna, achieving a time of 1min 59:40sec.

Although he succeeded in breaking the almost mythical two-hour barrier, the run did not count as a new marathon record, as standard competition rules for pacing and fluids were not followed.

The official men’s marathon world record remains 2:01:39, set by Kipchoge at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

Liz McColgan (then Liz Lynch) celebrates winning gold medal in the 10,000m at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

The Vaporfly was given the seal of approval by World Athletics in January. However, the sport’s governing body also put an “indefinite moratorium” on future advances in shoe technology because it admits “there is sufficient evidence to raise concerns that the integrity of the sport might be threatened by recent developments”.

It means that any new shoe that has a sole thicker than 40mm and has more than one rigid embedded plate or blade (as worn by Kipchoge in Vienna) is not permitted.

Unsurprisingly, Nike’s rivals have been quick to cry foul, although some have since tried to copy the carbon-plate idea.

Nevertheless, many in the sport are accusing the shoes of being like “technological doping”.

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge was wearing Nike Alphafly when he broke the mythical two-hour barrier for the marathon distance, although it was not counted as an official record.

McColgan tweeted: “Just to clear up a question i had a debate on last night, if you run in the Nike alphfly [sic] and break a record or go onto the all time list , is it noted that you were doing that with them on ( asterisk) or not ?”

The controversy has been further stoked by athletes wearing ‘prototype’ trainers which are not widely available.

Laura Muir found herself embroiled in this controversy when she broke the 31-year-old British record for the indoor mile in Birmingham last year while wearing a pair of prototype Vaporflys, although the World Athletics said it had not received any complaints about the shoes.

McColgan believes “every athlete should compete in the same technical shoe no matter what brand”.

She later tweeted: “I suppose all athletes will wear what is legally available to their brand but I feel all should have access to race in the same technical shoes no matter what brand they run in, technology has moved on so we need to accept this.”

McColgan used to be a Nike athlete but claims she was dropped after she became pregnant.

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