Big Changes to Strava? A Nike “Hyper Shoe”? Our Bold Running Predictions for 2024

Could Sifan Hassan Be The Next Kelvin Kiptum? The end of the Vaporfly? No Kipchoge gold? Our editors look into their crystal ball to give you their predictions for the year ahead.

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Big Changes to Strava? A Nike "Hyper Shoe"? Our Bold Running Predictions for 2024 1

As we stand at the starting line of a new year, the world of running beckons with the promise of uncharted territories and unprecedented achievements. 

The year 2024 unfolds before us as a blank canvas, inviting runners to paint their stories of triumph, perseverance, and breakthroughs. In this edition of The Running Conversation, our editors Jessy and Michael give us their hot takes and bold running predictions for the coming year. 

Join us as we sprint headfirst into the thrilling possibilities that await us in 2024, predicting the races, innovations, and unexpected turns that will define the year.

Big Changes to Strava? A Nike "Hyper Shoe"? Our Bold Running Predictions for 2024 2

The Most Versatile Runner Taking Down The Marathon World Record?

Jessy: So, my first big prediction for 2024 is that the women’s world record in the marathon will be broken, completely shattered. 

More specifically, I think it will be broken by Sifan Hassan. 

Now, hear me out: Sifan Hassan is a versatile beast

She currently holds six European records from the 1,500m all the way up to the marathon. 

She’s only run two marathons ever, making her marathon debut this year in London, where she won with a time of 2:18:33. She then went on to win the Chicago Marathon, running the second fastest women’s marathon ever in 2:13:44. 

I think that she still has a lot to learn in terms of how to race the marathon, and that might be hard since she’s still competing in many different distances. 

But I think she has the fitness to do it, and her marathons have only been improving. If she really dials in her training to learn the feel of her marathon pace, I think she’s the one to keep an eye on this year.

And, of course, the question is, will she focus on just the marathon for the Olympics? Or just track? Or all of the events? I think if she puts all her eggs into the marathon, she’s got the record in the bag.

Michael: Hassan is having one of the sneaky greatest careers of all time. 

First, she was dominant on the track as a killer 1,500m runner. Then, she added the 5,000m and 10,000m to her repertoire. 

She basically mocked her competitors by running the full slate at the last couple of World Championships and taking home medals in the process. 

On the track, she is always a threat to win at any distance she enters, and now she’s immediately become one of the best marathoners ever — all this after just two races at the distance.

Let’s insert some splits from the 2023 Chicago Marathon to marvel at: 

5K 00:15:4315:4303:09
10K00:31:05 15:22  03:05
15K00:46:37 15:32 03:07 
20K01:02:1615:39 03:08 
25K01:18:06 15:5003:10 
30K01:34:00 15:5403:11
35K01:50:17  16:17 03:16
40K02:06:36 16:1903:16
Finish02:13:44 07:08 03:15

I’m tempted to compare Sifan Hassan, the marathoner, to Kelvin Kiptum. 

They have both begun their marathoning careers with near-perfect races. Perhaps my only (extremely minor) criticism of Hassan’s last marathon is that she faded a bit in the second half, but that’s probably because she went out at world record pace, splitting halfway in 65:48

Her second half was 67:56, which is itself a world-class half-marathon time. So you might be onto something here, Jessy.

Oh, and she ran Chicago just six weeks after racing three events in the World Championships. That’s nuts. That’s the sort of thing wackos in the 1970s were doing. Except she’s much, much faster than said wackos.

Why was it that we didn’t make her the World Athletics Athlete of the Year?

Jessy: Now, I have strong opinions on why she didn’t even make the shortlist for World Athletics Athlete of the Year. But that’s probably a conversation for another day, or we’d be here quite a while…

Michael: If we somehow knew that the women’s marathon world record would fall in 2024, would you bet on Sifan or the field (and that includes Tigst Assefa, the current world record holder)?

Jessy: 100% Sifan Hassan.

If you put a fresh Sifan into a marathon against anyone, even Tigst, I think she’s taking it.

I think Sifan has incredible fitness, and she thrives in competition against others. She can dig deep. 

If she were to go up against the best in the world, I think that would give her that little extra push mentally because winners want to win, and Sifan Hassan is a winner.

Now, I highlighted the word ‘fresh’ up there because as versatile as Sifan is, I think that could be her Achilles heel. 

I think if she’s going to the Olympics with eyes on the marathon and track events, she could be in danger of fatigue. 

She’d be doing a lot of different training and racing leading up to that and at that point, it could make it harder for her to beat someone of similar fitness who has solely been focusing on that one event.

Though she’s even proved many times that despite fatigue, she can perform, so I’d put my money on her regardless.

Michael: And she tucked in the quote of 2023 at the end of the year when she said she’s “addicted to the pain of the marathon running.”

Big Changes to Strava? A Nike "Hyper Shoe"? Our Bold Running Predictions for 2024 3

Is This The End Of The Kipchoge Era?

Jessy: Now this one might not be anyone’s favorite to hear.

But, as much as Kipchoge has accomplished, I don’t think that he’s going to be the one to run sub-two hour marathon on a record-eligible course, and I also don’t think he’ll win his third straight Olympics. 

Michael: Oh Jessy, this take would even cause the zen master himself to lose it.

Jessy: We can’t deny that for the last while, we’ve been living in Kipchoge’s world, where he was on this marathoning pedestal. 

However, I think that a) he’s beginning to go past his peak, and b) there are a lot of young guns that are eager and, frankly, can recover better than Kipchoge can at 39.

Kipchoge has also shown that he is beatable, something that seemed impossible in years prior. 

Take Boston, for example; not only did he not win, but his competitors and the course defeated him. He’s shown he has weaknesses. 

And with Kiptum coming in and shattering the world record, I think people are getting excited for the up-and-comers in the marathon world.

Like I said, Kipchoge has accomplished almost everything there is to accomplish in the world of marathon running, and he’s moved the sport forward a lot, which is something that’s made him a legend. 

However, all good things must come to an end, and I think we’re nearing the end of the Kipchoge era.

Michael: I’m astonished, but you’re probably right. 

My variation on this prediction would be: “2024 will signal the beginning of the end of the Kipchoge era.” 

He’s like a heavyweight prizefighter or Usain Bolt in the final stage of his career, carefully selecting each race and perhaps dodging a major confrontation, save for the Olympic Games, which forces the best of the best to face off. 

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the negotiations between the Tokyo Marathon’s organizers and Valentijn Trouw, Kipchoge’s long-time agent as they worked on Kipchoge returning to the race this March. 

I recall hearing a rumor back in 2016, in the leadup to the Rio Olympics, that Usain Bolt was supposed to appear at a Diamond League event for a tuneup race, but when he heard Andre DeGrasse was on the start list, he pulled out. I doubt Bolt was afraid of DeGrasse, but he was perhaps starting to doubt his ability to win under any and all circumstances.

Winners like to win. Kipchoge has backed himself into a bit of a corner in terms of his legacy. It’s now Paris Olympic gold or bust. I don’t think there will be a miraculous return to Berlin for a sub-two marathon after the Games, even he were to step off the course. To his credit, he’s not that kind of compeitor anyhow.

Big Changes to Strava? A Nike "Hyper Shoe"? Our Bold Running Predictions for 2024 4

Will Nike Retain It’s Top Stop in the Super Shoe Power Rankings?

Michael: We’re having this conversation in the immediate aftermath of Alphafly Day, when Nike dropped the much-hyped new iteration of its flagship super shoe

I found many of the Alphafly 3’s details, as well as how Nike is positioning the shoe, to be fascinating and perhaps telling. 

It appears to me that Nike is looking to grow the reach of its super shoes by marketing the Alphafly 3 as a more versatile and durable shoe. 

The implication here is that, yes, it can still smash a world record, but it can also work as a rugged workout shoe over the course of 250 miles. This all comes as Nike’s marketshare is shrinking, and it laid off 700 employees at the end of 2023. They’ve been giving up ground to Hoka, On and Brooks.

The irony here is that when Nike began its super shoe project in around 2015-16, the company had completely lost any connection to front-of-the-pack runners, your Boston qualifying times. Now, the situation is inverted, and Nike is trying to figure out how to appeal to middle of the pack runners, while also maintaining its stranglehold on Major Marathon podium spots.

Meanwhile, Adidas also put a lot of pressure on Nike when it released its latest bleeding-edge tech shoe, the Pro Evo 1, last fall. A real sneak attack at the Berlin Marathon.

That model produced perhaps the most jaw-dropping record in history when Tigist Assefa ran the women’s world record in it. 

But that shoe is the polar opposite of Nike’s Alphafly 3: it’s paper thin, super light, and entirely disposable, lasting only one marathon, which is repulsive, decadent, and totally something Nike would have concocted (in fact, it did 20 years ago with a shoe called the Mayfly).

Nike doesn’t like to lose, and I can’t imagine they’ll allow the Germans to be the ones with the lightest, fastest, most ridiculous shoe on the market. 

My prediction is that Nike will release a new shoe for a sub-two attempt at some point in 2024 and will do away with the Vaporfly Next%. 

That’ll leave the Alphafly 3 as the “every person’s PR shoe,” and whatever this next wave of super-duper shoes as Nike’s equivalent of the EVO 1.

Jessy: This totally makes sense. I feel like the shoes themselves might actually be making more headlines than the runners who wear them.

Now, the thing is, super shoes are already quite controversial, with the topic of technological doping. But another controversial part of super shoes, specifically the Adidas super shoe, is that it does only last for one marathon, then it’s done.

Now, the reason I’m bringing this up is because marathon running is being increasingly impacted by climate change, and I think more and more people are beginning to realize this.

So when the Adidas shoe first came out, and it broke the women’s world record, I think everyone was just super hyped about this shiny new toy. 

It’s super fast and lightweight, and we’ve never seen anything like it before, so everyone was really excited about that, and you know, we have to throw it out after one marathon, which also created a lot of buzz and excitement because we’ve never seen anything like that before.

But I think once that excitement died down a bit and we took a step back, we realized that the fact that you do have to throw them out after one use isn’t only financially irresponsible, it’s also super irresponsible for the climate.

The materials that these shoes are made with are incredibly harmful to the environment in terms of production, and they’re also incredibly difficult to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way. 

This is causing huge challenges for an issue that we’re already having trouble dealing with. 

So, what I can see happening is either Nike does create a single-use super shoe to meet up with Adidas in the middle and battle it out there, but then I think if that does happen, there’s going to be a lot of backlash. 

Michael: If I were the clever folks over at Nike PR, I’d be feeding my journalist contacts more and more information on how environmentally irresponsible it is to design a one-off super shoe.

Jessy: Or what we could see is World Athletics stepping in and creating even more restrictions on super shoes.

I think this option wouldn’t just have to do with the climate change aspect. I think that would be just one consideration, but I also think the controversies surrounding technological doping would also be something to persuade them even more to put more restrictions in place.

Big Changes to Strava? A Nike "Hyper Shoe"? Our Bold Running Predictions for 2024 5

Could Barefoot Shoes Be The Next Super Shoe?

Jessy: Alright, for my next prediction, I’m gonna do a complete 180 from super shoes.

Barefoot and minimalist shoes have been on the rise for the last few years, but I think that they’re going to continue to grow in popularity. 

There’s an increasing number of advocates for minimalistic running shoes who argue that they allow for a more natural and efficient running stride by encouraging a forefoot or midfoot strike, which aligns more closely with the natural biomechanics of human running. 

Some runners who make the switch to minimalist shoes also report that it helps them avoid injuries such as shin splits and stress fractures by reducing impact forces thanks to the more natural movement. 

There have also been more and more elite runners and influencers adopting minimalist or barefoot running, and with that comes a trickle-down effect in the running community.

Michael: I sure hope this doesn’t happen. 

I’m going to show my age here for a moment. I remember the last great minimalist running scare about a decade ago. 

The book Born To Run was released in 2010 and became a breakthrough bestseller. 

Everyone read it. 

Its protagonists were ultrarunners from the Tarahumara tribe in northern Mexico. It was a super compelling book. The runners featured wore these incredibly simple leather sandals. Yes, you read that correctly: running sandals. They even became a thing for a minute.

This coincided with a Harvard study that suggested there was a benefit to barefoot running, along with a big marketing push by the company Vibram and its FiveFingers shoes, which looked like a sock that wrapped each toe individually. 

It was all quite ridiculous. 

And it turns out that much of the science backing Vibram’s marketing claims was suspect, which triggered a massive lawsuit, which the company settled. 

Thankfully, the shoes went away. 

And while I appreciate Gen Z’s desire to make everything that is old and new again, this is a terrible idea. And it’s probably just a market correction away from Hokas and super shoes. 

Jessy: I’m also gonna add to your point about the FiveFinger shoes.

They really aren’t the most stylish.

I know someone who owns a pair, and let me tell you, they’re definitely a fashion faux-pas.

Michael: But style is a state of mind, Jessy. I have one word for you: Crocs.

Big Changes to Strava? A Nike "Hyper Shoe"? Our Bold Running Predictions for 2024 6

Will We See Big Changes To Our Favorite Running Social Media Platform?

Michael: One under-the-radar business story in the running world that wasn’t heavily covered was the recent changing of the guard at Strava. 

The company’s long-time CEO and co-founder, Michael Horvath, stepped down in 2023, which led to an extensive search for new leadership. 

In mid-December, Strava announced that Michael Martin would be its new boss. 

He comes from Google, where he was in charge of YouTube’s shopping and e-commerce platform. He’s got a background at Nike before that, where he led the company’s Run Club app and Apple Watch integration. 

Those products were met with mixed reactions, and I’m curious to see what he’s got planned to shake up Strava a bit. 

It’s currently sitting at about 120 million users, and the company has said it’s been profitable each year, but it just feels like it’s become a bit of a stagnant ecosystem.

I predict Martin will attempt to inject more in-app products, sort of turning Strava into a blend of social media space and quasi-Apple App Store.

Jessy: I totally agree. I think Strava has been something that is just there now.

You know they’ve come out with different updates and some new features, but most of them just feel like they’re almost trying too hard to generate a new burst of excitement around the platform.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid Strava user and am on the app every day, but since I’ve downloaded the app, I haven’t ever been like, “Woah, check out this new feature!”

Like when Instagram introduced Reels, the world went nuts, and I think Strava is looking for that same type of hype. 

I’m not sure what their game plan is to generate that hype, but with this change, I’m sure he’s bringing in some new ideas.

Michael: And with 120 million users and a profitable model, someone will eventually come along and storm the Strava walls with a viable competitor.

Big Changes to Strava? A Nike "Hyper Shoe"? Our Bold Running Predictions for 2024 7

Will UTMB Sink or Swim?

Jessy: For my final prediction, I think we’re going to see a lot more people boycott UTMB.

For me, this one comes down to the over-commercialization of UTMB. 

I think the one event that really sort of pushed the needle here was when UTMB Whistler was announced just after Whistler Alpine Meadows Ultra Marathon (WAM), an independently run ultra event, was permanently canceled. 

UTMB Whistler is being held at the same ski resort that formerly hosted WAM. 

Many blame the over-commercialization of UTMB events ever since partnering with Ironman and the desire to monetize its rapid growth in popularity. 

This whole deal caused a lot of people from the trail running community to become upset, with many professional runners saying they would even be boycotting the event

I think it’s a tough balance because you need to monetize some aspects of trail running and racing to continue to be able to put on events. However, I think it’s coming to the point where UTMB is beginning to take away from the spirit of ultra-running.

Michael: One stat that has jumped out a couple of times in the various year-end wrap-ups (and a trend we covered) is just how popular trail running has become in recent years. It’s an area of massive growth, so it’s going to attract companies looking to profit from this uptick in interest. As we said earlier, Nike had a tough 2023, but one area of growth was in the trail running category. So you can could on seeing more Swoosh involvement at ultras and smaller trail events around the world in 2024.

I’m also of two minds about all of this. 

On the one hand, I love the idea of the further professionalization of trail running. 

I’ve long wished that one day, the 100-miler would find its way into the Olympics. Imagine watching a really well-produced version of an event like Western States? 

Drones buzzing around, following the best ultrarunners in the world as they traverse a gnarly course. It’d be like this bizarre blend of a major marathon and a killer episode of Survivor. This is exactly the sort of sizzle that athletics currently lacks.

I also think it’d train a bigger audience to appreciate the “good hang” that a running event can be as a form of entertainment. A big, long distance race is the ultimate second-screen friendly viewing experience.

But the problem here is that the ultra-trail community is also not fundamentally about this level of commercialization. 

What’s taking place right now with the UTMB situation feels at odds with the ethos of the scene. 

So I think you’re right. 

Many people who are the most deeply entrenched in this scene will probably reject these sorts of incursions outright in 2024. 

Queue the Rage Against the Machine track.

We’d love to know your take on our predictions. Do you agree or disagree? What other predictions do you have for 2024?

Photo of author
Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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