Nike shoe debate rages as runners weigh advantages at U.S. Olympic trials

FILE PHOTO: Athletics - Dubai Marathon - Dubai, United Arab Emirates - January 24, 2020 General view of an athlete wearing the Nike Vaporfly shoes REUTERS/Christopher Pike

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A debate over Nike’s record-breaking distance footwear raged on ahead of Saturday’s U.S. Olympic marathon trials, as the shoe’s buzz-worthy technology continued to raise questions over whether it offered an unfair advantage to runners.

The Nike Vaporfly shoe captured the spotlight in October when Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier wearing a pair, and various versions of it have featured in other record-smashing runs since.

“It’s hard to argue that they do not provide an advantage just because of the 500 women who are running, 480 are going to be wearing Vaporflys,” said Kellyn Taylor, a marathoner sponsored by HOKA ONE ONE who is seen as a top contender in the women’s field.

“Technology is important. I think that it should always be advancing, but I do think there’s a cap on it,” said Taylor, who came sixth in the 2016 trials. “I think the question is, ‘Have we reached that?’”

While many of the leading contenders, like Taylor, are bound by sponsorship deals to wear specific brands on race day, unsponsored athletes such as Jake Riley, who boasts the fifth-fasted qualifying time in the men’s field, are free to run in any approved shoe.

Riley played down rumors that he declined lucrative sponsorship deals to keep his independent status, telling reporters this week, “There was a little interest but not a ton, and so we decided to just keep the options open.”

He plans to wear a pair of the carbon-plated Nikes on Saturday, as he did to compete in the Chicago Marathon in 2019, where he was the top-finishing American.

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