Nike Vaporfly Running Shoe Avoids Tokyo Olympic Ban

The World Athletics track and field governing body issued its new competition guidelines for shoe apparel, and the popular Nike shoe passed the test.
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The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be a big showcase for sports-apparel companies, and Nike's  (NKE) - Get Report popular Vaporfly running shoe will be allowed in competition.

The World Athletics organization, which is the governing body for most international track and field events, published a 136-page rule book Friday, governing which equipment runners and other track athletes may use.

Nike’s Vaporfly shoe meets the criteria for competition spelled out in the organization’s guidelines.

As far back as 2016, long-distance runners complained that early protoypes of the Vaporfly gave the athletes that had access to them advantages over non-wearers. 

"I do feel like it wasn't a level playing field," Kara Goucher said after she finished fourth in the last U.S. Olympic Marathon Trial behind two athletes who did wear the shoe.

One rule stipulates that beginning April 30, any shoe used in competition must have been available for purchase on the retail market for at least four months. That stipulation disqualifies the Nike Alphafly, which is a prototype that Eliud Kipchoge wore during the sub-two-hour marathon he ran in Vienna in 2019.

Some of the rules imposed include a ban on any shoe with a sole thicker than 40mm and shoes that contains more than one plate.

Nike’s research suggests that the right shoes can increase an athlete’s energetic efficiency by 4% or more, leading to calls for more regulation of equipment to provide the most level playing field possible.

“The purpose of shoes for competition is to give protection and stability to the feet and a firm grip on the ground. They must not give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage,” the organization’s new bylaws state. 

“Any type of shoe must be reasonably available to all in the spirit of the universality of athletics.”

Nike’s footwear segment remains its biggest moneymaker, with revenue from the segment in its most recent quarter rising 12% from a year earlier to $6.21 billion. 

Nike shares at last check were off 1% at $97.23 amid a broad-market slump. The S&P 500 was lower by 1.13%.