Athletes using new running shoe technology to set records are “cheating”, Kenya’s former marathon world record holder Tegla Loroupe said as debate continues to rage over whether high-tech footwear give runners an unfair advantage.
Footwear developed by Nike played a role in two of the biggest distance-running achievements of 2019, with Eliud Kipchoge‘s sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna and Brigid Kosgei’s record-breaking run at the Chicago Marathon bringing the Vaporfly shoes into the spotlight.
While World Athletics banned the shoes worn by Kipchoge during that run from professional sport last year, Nike has launched a new version of its Alphafly footwear that complies with new rules introduced by the governing body.
“I’m not a fan because there is no human energy,” Loroupe, who was the first African woman to break the marathon world record, told the BBC. “You are cheating, you are not a hero because you don’t use your own strength.
“You can have a faster shoe [but] what about those who cannot afford, it’s almost like doping, for me there is no difference between doping and having a faster shoe.”
Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich shaved 29 seconds off the world half marathon record this month and British triathlete Beth Potter is awaiting ratification of a world record time from a low-key 5 km (3.11 miles) road race.
Both athletes wore high-tech footwear made by different manufacturers that Loroupe, who has won marathons in New York, London, Berlin and Rome, feels should be banned.
“[It’s] good to have shoes but to have this element that other athletes cannot afford, it’s wrong,” she said. “For me, the shoes should be banned so that people can trust themselves, they can train and see what I am able to do.
“We ran without shoes and when we got shoes, it’s just normal shoes, but we still broke the world record.”