Controversial running shoes allowed in Ottawa Race Weekend
Elite runners must follow new footwear rules released Friday
Ottawa Race Weekend will allow the vast majority of its 32,000 competitors to use pricey foam-soled, carbon fibre shoes causing a stir in the running world.
A carbon fibre plate prevents the foot from bending and getting fatigued, while the thick layer of foam compresses and springs back with each step.
Nike's Vaporfly shoe is at the centre of the controversy because people who wear them are winning major races in record times.
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge was wearing a pair when he set the men's world record in 2018, with a time of 2:01:39 and had a prototype, Nike Alpha Fly, when he broke the two-hour barrier in an unsanctioned race in October.
Other manufacturers are rushing to catch up, including Adidas, Asics, Brooks and New Balance.
The "super shoes" cost $300-500, or about 45 per cent more than other high performance shoes.
"It's an interesting evolving technology. If people want to come to our event and use the shoe they're more than welcome to," said Ian Fraser, the executive director and race director of Ottawa Race Weekend.
But elite or professional runners must follow new rules released today by World Athletics, formerly the International Association of Athletics Federations or IAAF.
Among other things, the new rules that kick in April 30 limit the thickness of the foam sole, require that shoes have only one layer of carbon fibre, and be widely available for purchase as of Jan. 1, 2020.
Vaporfly shoes would be allowed, but the Alpha Fly shoes would not.
The new rules apply to all WA sanctioned events, including the Ottawa Race Weekend's 10K and marathon.
Fraser says elite runners make up less than one percent of the ORW athletes.
The shoes can't be found for any price at Ottawa's Sports 4, a specialized running store with locations on Bank Street and College Square.
"The majority of our customers are not going to be looking for a shoe like that," said general manager Nathan Kwok.
Having said that, the shoe-loving Kwok is a believer.
"I think it's a really, really cool [piece] of gear to have. You don't often see shoes that are game changers," he said.
"To have such a noticeable difference and seeing so many records broken with this shoe — it's almost a piece of running history."
Fraser of Ottawa Race Weekend is more sceptical.
"Is there value in going out and buying a five hundred dollar pair of running shoes?" asks Fraser, a runner himself, with no plans to buy super shoes anytime soon.
"If you're a regular everyday runner, you roll through half a dozen pairs of shoes a year easily. And to be spending $3,000 a year on your running shoes is kind of ridiculous," he said.
"If one of my running buddies kept showing up in these shoes I would just look at him and say 'You're an idiot for spending that kind of money on this!'"
Ottawa Race Weekend will be held May 23-24, 2020.