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Battle of the Super Shoes: The New Record Breaking Nike Prototype May Be The Fastest One Yet

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Nike put its best foot forward at the 2023 Chicago Marathon, with their latest prototype propelling Kelvin Kiptum to a new world record. The 2:00:35 marathoner can be seen wearing the unreleased Nike Alphafly 3, the company’s latest carbon-plated race shoe.

Sifan Hassan also wore the latest Nike super shoe at the Chicago Marathon, where she went on to win the race by running the second-fastest marathon ever by a woman and setting a Chicago course record.

Two weeks prior, at the Berlin Marathon, race winner and former marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge was also seen wearing the same prototype.

Needless to say, this shoe is fast, very fast. 

Compared to the earlier versions of the Alphafly, the new prototype looks significantly different. However, Nike has not gone too far off course.

The upper is still made from the same material as the Alphafly predecessors, the Nike AtomicKnit fabric. The main difference is the midsole is slightly chunkier and more streamlined.

With the world record inching ever closer to the elusive sub-2 hour mark, it can sometimes feel as though it is not only a race of human performance but also of technological advancements.

In 2019, following Eliud Kipghoge’s sub-2-hour marathon, World Athletics imposed a list of restrictions for super shoes, resulting in the Athletic Shoes Regulation.

One note from the list of principals found in the document speaks to performances in athletics being a human feat, not a result of technological advancement:

“Performances (including records) in athletics are achieved through the primacy of human endeavour over technology in athletic shoes and advances in the same (e.g., to allow for meaningful competition).”

Many argue that this statement has become oblivious, as there is no doubt that super shoes enhance performance.

There are a number of criteria shoes must meet in order to be allowed to be used in competition and in setting records. 

Such things include aspects that relate directly to the manufacturing and design of the shoe, such as not having a sole thicker than 40mm and only having one rigid plate through the length of the shoe (such as carbon fiber).

Other aspects are in relation to the principle “allow for meaningful competition.”

It is a rule that shoes must be available for purchase by the public and must have been available for the last month. The only exception is if World Athletics approves an alternative timeline.

The Adidas Adios Pro Evo 1, the shoe world by Tigist Assefa to break the world record at the Berlin Marathon, was available for purchase in very limited quantities and at a staggering price of €500 on September 14, 2023. Therefore, it can be assumed that World Athletics approved an alternative timeline.

Similarly, the Nike Alphafly 3 had World Athletics approve an alternative timeline. This allows for the Nike Alphafly 3 to be in developmental use until December 2023.

The Nike Alphafly 3 was recently announced that it will be available for purchase by the public in January 2024.

Although the price of the shoes has not yet been released by Nike, the Alphafly 2 shoe was released at a price point of €310.

Not only are runners chasing the elusive sub-2-hour marathon but so are the companies that develop the super shoes. 

Some people see the technological advancements as taking away from the human feat, while others see the shoes as breaking boundaries. Regardless, the battle for super shoe supremacy is on.

What is your stance on these record-breaking super shoes?

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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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