World Athletics to allow 'development shoes' if they meet technical specifications

The amendment applies to competitions sanctioned by World Athletics, area associations or member federations at which its rules apply.

Brigid Kosgei's record-breaking run at the Chicago Marathon brought Nike's Vaporfly shoes into the spotlight, sparking debate over whether the advanced footwear gave runners an unfair advantage.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Athletes will be allowed to wear shoes still under development in international competitions and events where World Athletics rules apply, upon approval of the shoes' specifications, after a rule change by the sport's governing body.

The shoes will have to meet the same technical specifications as other approved shoes, World Athletics said.

The amendment - rubber-stamped by the World Athletics Council on Friday - applies to competitions sanctioned by World Athletics, area associations or member federations at which its rules apply.

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But such “development shoes” will not be permitted in the World Athletics Series or at the Olympics.

A debate over runners' shoes has been raging since high-tech footwear developed by Nike played a starring role in two of the biggest distance-running achievements of 2019.

Eliud Kipchoge's sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna and Brigid Kosgei's record-breaking run at the Chicago Marathon brought Nike's Vaporfly shoes into the spotlight, sparking debate over whether the advanced footwear gave runners an unfair advantage.

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World Athletics banned the shoes from professional sport earlier this year, following which Nike launched a new version of its Alphafly shoe that complies with new rules introduced by the governing body.

Manufacturers use development shoes to conduct tests with sponsored athletes before making them available in the market.

World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon welcomed the amendment, insisting it would not affect the competition's integrity.

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“The use of competition to complete the final testing of development shoes by manufacturers has always been an important part of the shoe development process,” Ridgeon said.

“With shoe manufacturers agreeing to our new process of submitting specifications and shoes, if required, for approval ahead of being worn in competition, we are confident that this amendment will not impact the integrity of competition.”

Prototypes can be worn for a period of 12 months, after which they no longer qualify as development shoes and can no longer be used in competitions.