Nike Zoom Vaporfly: An Unfair Footwear Advantage?

The New York Times: A new Nike shoe design, Zoom Vaporfly, has “produced fast times and impressive results in international races. But they have also spurred yet another debate about the advance of technology and the gray area where innovation meets extremely vague rules about what is considered unfair performance enhancement for the feet. Where to draw the line of permissible assistance?”

“The shoes weigh about 6.5 ounces and feature a thick but lightweight midsole that is said to return 13 percent more energy than more conventional foam midsoles. Some runners have said the shoes reduce fatigue in their legs. Embedded in the length of the midsole is a thin, stiff carbon-fiber plate that is scooped like a spoon. Imagined another way, it is somewhat curved like a blade. The plate is designed to reduce the amount of oxygen needed to run at a fast pace. It stores and releases energy with each stride and is meant to act as a kind of slingshot, or catapult, to propel runners forward.”

“Nike says that the carbon-fiber plate saves 4 percent of the energy needed to run at a given speed when compared with another of its popular racing shoes … In truth, some experts said, debate about Nike’s latest shoes may only help increase sales to joggers and four-hour marathoners. A less expensive model than the Olympic shoe, with similar technology, goes on sale in June for $150.” Bret Schoolmeester of Nike comments: “To me, it’s kind of a compliment when you are delivering a big enough benefit that people are starting to ask, is this unfair? We don’t believe it is, but that’s pretty flattering.”


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