When Do A Runner’s Shoes Become Immoral Rule-Breakers During A Marathon?

Technology is starting to implant itself into everything we do these days. Because microchips are becoming so inexpensive, they’re being placed in everything. That’s what the Internet of Things is all about: Making everyday objects “smarter” to make our lives easier. Soon enough you’ll have a chip in your toilet that tells you when to visit the doctor based on what foul organisms are living inside your waste.

But what happens when those same technologies are implemented in typical athletic gear? Will marathon organizers begin to ban certain types of wearable technology in the near future? Those are the questions being asked because of Nike’s new technologically advanced Vaporfly sneakers — because Nike has already measured wearers running about 4 percent faster.

The sneakers have been the subject of controversy for about a year. That controversy heated up even more in October, when two Kenyan runners broke recorded marathon records — both wearing Vaporfly shoes.

But what’s so special about them? Nike used a foam-packed carbon-fiber plate in their design, because the company knows that runners in those shoes are more efficient. But runners are also more efficient when they take performance-enhancing drugs and supplements, which are obviously illegal.

Where is the line between right and wrong when it comes to performance-enhancing shoes? Is there one? 

Those are the questions currently being addressed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). If the organization concludes that shoes like Nike’s Vaporfly line provide an immoral advantage to runners who wear them, then New York Road Runners (NYRR) might ban them from New York City marathons.

NYRR Vice President Chris Weiller said, “We are in touch with all the athletes who will be competing in the marathon this year and they are all looking forward to competing in whichever shoes they choose to run in.”

Retired long-distance runner Ryan Hall believes the shoes should be banned. On Instagram, he wrote, “When a shoe company puts multiple carbon fiber plates in a shoe with cushion between the plates it is no longer a shoe, it’s a spring, and a clear mechanical advantage to anyone not in those shoes.”

And whether or not the shoes are mechanically better might provide the answer to our questions. Either way, the controversy is likely to get even more heated in the coming years, as more and more of these performance-enhancing shoes are put on the market. Especially when they include computer chips!