Nike have poked the ‘mechanical doping’ hornet’s nest by releasing their Air Zoom Alphafly Next% this week.
The global sports brand released the controversial new trainers just days after World Athletics introduced new footwear laws in response to Nike’s former flagship boot: the Vaporfly.
The Alphafly are based on the trainers wore by Eliud Kipchoge during the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in which he became the first human being to run a marathon in under two hours.
But despite the new release looking to have equally over-sized soles, they are in fact compliant with the recent regulations in being a mere 0.5 millimetres below the 40mm cut-off point.
Nevertheless, the use of special foam and carbon plating mean that the Alphafly will still mark a significant improvement on the Vaporfly, which has long since turned athletics on its head.
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Nike release the Alphafly
Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei both donned variants of the Vaporfly when they broke the legal marathon world-records in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
In fact, the five fastest marathon times in history have all been recorded by athletes wearing Nike’s revolutionary shoes.
Therefore, the latest development should prove ominous. While the Vaporfly were said to improve performance by 4%, it’s been whispered that the Alphafly could cut times by as much as 7-8%.
How will they change athletics?
One source told the Guardian: “even a little effort pushes you more forward than a regular shoe.”
The new release is bound to push world-records even further towards super-human territory and a legal sub-two-hour marathon could be on the cards if the Alphafly are as overpowered as indicated.
But the same won’t be said for sprinting, because the accompanying Viperfly sprints spikes are in violation with World Athletics’ new laws and have prompted Nike to go back to the drawing board.
GIVEMESPORT’s Kobe Tong says
We’ve reached a technological revolution in athletics and the powers that be need to decide whether it’s in the sport’s best interest or not.
This entire situation has unfolded because World Athletics’ laws were grossly underwritten, so it’s a huge step in the right direction that new limitations and regulations are being enforced.
But Nike are so ahead of the game with their shoe technology that athletes who aren’t wearing them at the Olympics and beyond are at a distinct disadvantage to their tick-touting rivals.
In the short-term, athletics fans will get to enjoy world and Olympic records tumbling, but will we look back in five or 10 year’s time and realise that all those times were effectively tainted?
That being said, there should be a constant dialogue between Nike and World Athletics to ensure we strike a balance between embracing technology and treasuring the human element.
At the end of the day, Kipchoge still ran a marathon in under two hours and Kosgei still broke Paula Radlciffe’s record, regardless of whether they were wearing flip-flops or rocket-boots.
Yet at what point are those achievements not the product of one human body, but the human minds of people thousands of miles away? Nike, it would seem, ‘just do it’ regardless.