Sebastian Coe. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SHAUN BOTTERILL
Sebastian Coe. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SHAUN BOTTERILL

Bengaluru — World Athletics president Sebastian Coe believes steps to curb research & development of shoes would only “suffocate innovation”, as elite athletes increasingly shatter world records wearing hi-tech footwear.

A debate over runners’ shoes has been raging since hi-tech shoes developed by Nike played a starring role in two of the biggest distance-running achievements of 2019.

Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei broke the men’s 10,000m world record and Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey demolished the women’s 5,000m record in Valencia in October 2020, with both wearing Nike’s ZoomX Dragonfly spikes.

Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie smashed the half-marathon world record by 29 seconds in December wearing an Adidas road-racing shoe.

“I remember a period in the mid-2000s where Adidas were the kings of the podium, particularly in distance. So these things come in cycles,” Coe was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

“And there’s a built-in dynamic where shoe companies mercifully are still investing a lot of money into the research & development of shoes. I’m pleased they’re doing that.

“At the moment I’m pretty calm about this. And the balance of judgment here is always ... that we shouldn’t be in the business of trying to suffocate innovation.”

Coe said the sport had not reached a point where “world records are being handed out like confetti”.

“If I go back to the 1930s I still marvel at Rudolf Harbig who ran 1:46 and bits for 800m on a cinder track,” he added.

“And I still marvel at Peter Snell, who ran world records and some significantly sub-1:45s on grass tracks. Meanwhile Derek Clayton ran a world marathon record in shoes that you wouldn’t have gone for a stroll with in your local park.” 

Reuters

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