Today, even with the Olympics and other major athletic events postponed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the sport of running remains upside down, with the focus still on shoes instead of on who’s wearing them.
Today, even with the Olympics and other major athletic events postponed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the sport of running remains upside down, with the focus still on shoes instead of on who’s wearing them. (Courtesy Nike)
Adventures in Audio

Is the Battle Over Nike’s Vaporfly Ruining Running?

Today, even with the Olympics and other major athletic events postponed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the sport of running remains upside down, with the focus still on shoes instead of on who’s wearing them.

Over the past few years, the sport of running has been upended by a debate over shoe technology. It all began in early 2017, when Nike announced a prototype called the Vaporfly that was billed as improving a runner’s efficiency by 4 percent—a claim that was hard to believe until that spring, when Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge came seconds away completing a marathon in under two hours. The running community’s reaction was swift, with many claiming that the shoe wasn’t a breakthrough, it was a cheat. A lot has changed since then, with records at numerous distances being obliterated while other shoe brands look to duplicate the Vaporfly’s success, even as they call for new Nike prototypes to be banned. Today, even with the Olympics and other major athletic events postponed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the sport of running remains upside down, with the focus still on shoes instead of on who’s wearing them. Outside editor Chris Keyes speaks with our Sweat Science columnist, Alex Hutchinson, about how we got here and what it all means for the future of the sport.

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Outside’s longstanding literary storytelling tradition comes to life in audio with features that will both entertain and inform listeners. We launched in March 2016 with our first series, Science of Survival, which was developed in partnership with PRX, distributors of the idolized This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour, among others. We have since expanded our show and now offer a range of story formats, including interviews with the biggest figures in sports, adventure, and politics, as well as reports from our correspondents in the field.