Author Topic: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?  (Read 965 times)

Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« on: January 29, 2020, 09:28:53 am »
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/jan/28/controversial-nike-vaporflys-escape-ban

That's something I had never considered before. If athletes find a particular running shoe conducive to them running faster, is it reasonable to restrict the use of that shoe? To me, all it says is that the shoes that have gone before have actually held people back. Or am I missing something important?
Eating's a serious business. Don't bollocks around wagging your tail.

PaulF

  • "World's Scariest Barman"
  • It's only impossible if you stop to think about it
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2020, 09:55:50 am »
As long as they satisfy the rules that are in place it's fair I think. Didn't we see a similar furore of the GB cyclists in a previous Olympics and the UK Rugby team a couple of World Cups ago? And America's Cup yachting or F1 motorsport etc..

Every sport is part of the arms race in terms of marginal gains, whilst you allow sponsorship the athletes with the sponsor who has the "best" R&D will always have an advantage. The only truly fair way is to either compel all athletes in any sport to have the same equipment from the same manufacturer.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2020, 10:08:49 am »
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

bludger

  • Randonneur and bargain hunter
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2020, 10:12:19 am »
I don't think it's reasonable to restrict the use of the shoe so long as it is commercially 'on the market' for anyone to buy, on race day.

I am of the view that making rules and regs like these ends up stagnating technical innovation and making the products more expensive in the long run. Look at Japan, they did this for Keirin racing and now NJS stamped products are stupid expensive relative to their actual value for cycling. You can't even use your own bar tape. 87 euros for a pair of NJS pedal straps LOL https://www.tracksupermarket.com/njs-certified-parts/mks-fit-alpha-double-straps-black-njs.html
YACF touring/audax bargain basement:
https://bit.ly/2Xg8pRD


Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2020, 10:17:08 am »
Taking an extreme example, it's possible to run faster if you use big spring type things (it may take some getting used to) but there are videos of people running stupidly fast with those "centaur" legs. Therefore the design/composition/mechanics of the shoe does have a significant effect.

There already exists a whole load of rules about the characteristics of acceptable shoes but they don't have anything yet about the amount of energy that can be returned, so that's where Nike have pushed things:-

From: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/jul/22/nike-shoes-vaporfly-sport (and emphasis mine)

Quote
However last week, the New York Times, having analysed 495,000 marathon and half-marathon times since 2014 using data from Strava, reached a similar conclusion. Runners who wore Vaporflys, which have a controversial carbon-fibre plate in their soles, did indeed run 3-4% quicker on average than similar runners wearing other shoes, and around 1% faster than those using the next speediest shoe.

Quote
The International Association of Athletics Federations, the world governing body, also insists that Nike’s game-changing shoe meets all its requirements and “does not require any special inspection or approval”. Yet elite competition also requires a semblance of fairness. At some point the IAAF will have to rule on the permissible amount of energy return allowed from cushioning materials and whether carbon‑fibre devices in midsoles should be banned.

Nike are canny in this, they've probably got 3 or 4 more iterations of the shoe lined up with bigger and better returns but they know that going straight to the best design will have it thrown out or banned straight away. So they introduce the improvements slowly, just enough that the competitive advantage is there but not enough to people say it is too much. Competitors will catch up because they can get hold of Nike's shoes, take them apart, and copy the fundamental improvements, but Nike were first and have the hype and the sales that go with that. They can then choose to introduce the next improvement before the others work out what to do to improve on Nike's first iteration, etc.

See also swimming suits, trip suits for cycling, etc. Most sports are at it but most sports have stricter regulatory bodies and aren't dwarfed by massive sports companies with much bigger budgets.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

T42

  • Tea tank
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2020, 10:32:05 am »
I don't think it's reasonable to restrict the use of the shoe so long as it is commercially 'on the market' for anyone to buy, on race day.

Joe Blow from Ballymaccaret can certainly buy any shoe he likes but sponsored athletes can't, and that means that if they're not sponsored by Nike they're (supposedly) at a disadvantage.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

PaulF

  • "World's Scariest Barman"
  • It's only impossible if you stop to think about it
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2020, 10:41:18 am »
I don't think it's reasonable to restrict the use of the shoe so long as it is commercially 'on the market' for anyone to buy, on race day.

Joe Blow from Ballymaccaret can certainly buy any shoe he likes but sponsored athletes can't, and that means that if they're not sponsored by Nike they're (supposedly) at a disadvantage.

It's the athlete's decision to tie themself to a specific sponsor; shouldn't be a reason to ban a piece of equipment just because another sponsor has better R&D

caerau

  • SR x 3 - PBP fail but 1090 km - hey - not too bad
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2020, 10:45:28 am »


Nike are canny in this, they've probably got 3 or 4 more iterations of the shoe lined up with bigger and better returns but they know that going straight to the best design will have it thrown out or banned straight away.  will reduce the profits they can make by releasing less versions and gradually ramping up.


FTFY ;)
It's a reverse Elvis thing.

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2020, 11:13:23 am »
There's an interesting podcast or 2 from Ross Tucker (science of sport pod) about this. As well as conveying a competitive advantage to Nike athletes vs their contemporaries, it also means that you can't compare performance before vs after shoe tech. So it's basically impossible to know if the new marathon World Records were actually better athletic performances than the ones set 5 years ago, or whether the athletic performance was worse, but the shoe made the difference.
Personally I think that the rules are clear and these shoes break them:
Quote
must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage
especially the custom ones that they build specifically for the foot strike pattern of their top athletes (like the ones Kipchoge went under 2 hours in). However, because Nike originally introduced shoes that gave a small advantage to start with, and only now have begun producing bigger and bigger advantages, they have got away with it. Also because Nike basically own athletics.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2020, 11:15:47 am »
it also means that you can't compare performance before vs after shoe tech. So it's basically impossible to know if the new marathon World Records were actually better athletic performances than the ones set 5 years ago, or whether the athletic performance was worse, but the shoe made the difference.
Surely that's true of every change in equipment, as well as venue, training regime and of course rules.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2020, 11:29:05 am »
it also means that you can't compare performance before vs after shoe tech. So it's basically impossible to know if the new marathon World Records were actually better athletic performances than the ones set 5 years ago, or whether the athletic performance was worse, but the shoe made the difference.
Surely that's true of every change in equipment, as well as venue, training regime and of course rules.
Generally, improvements in training and stuff result in improved athletic performance. Clearly venue, course, etc matters, but for most world level marathons they are fairly consistent. Obviously you can't compare across eras, but with these improvements in shoe tech you can't even compare this year to last year.

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2020, 11:32:13 am »
You can't compare events between years because there are too many variables, but the article I linked to above refers to some research they did on the statistically significant improvements the shoes showed over a much larger sample set. (I haven't delved into it to see how rigorous a study it was...)
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

T42

  • Tea tank
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2020, 12:32:52 pm »
I don't think it's reasonable to restrict the use of the shoe so long as it is commercially 'on the market' for anyone to buy, on race day.

Joe Blow from Ballymaccaret can certainly buy any shoe he likes but sponsored athletes can't, and that means that if they're not sponsored by Nike they're (supposedly) at a disadvantage.

It's the athlete's decision to tie themself to a specific sponsor; shouldn't be a reason to ban a piece of equipment just because another sponsor has better R&D

If an athlete signs up with a sponsor for $N + kit over X years and a competing brand releases radically better kit when contract still has Y years to run, athlete is locked in with the inferior stuff.  It's a wager and he just lost.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2020, 12:36:01 pm »
Didn't the UCI have this comparability problem particularly with the hour record, where they retrospectively de-recognized some records due to the position used and then introduced the 'best human effort' category for them? So perhaps the IAAF could do something similar, with 'competition shoe' and 'any shoe' records. But the hour is something rather special, the only point is to establish a record rather than win the race on the day, a bit like Kipchoge's recent sub-2 hour marathon compared to a regular race. So I think at some point sports governing bodies have to take a decision on whether they're more interested in recording data or encouraging best performance (where 'best' might not necessarily mean 'fastest' because, among other things, fairness concerns).
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2020, 12:45:31 pm »
And there was I naively thinking that the hour rules were changed because it was considered right that the record could be held by a Briton.

Karla

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    • Lost Byway - around the world by bike
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2020, 01:09:40 pm »
Didn't the UCI have this comparability problem particularly with the hour record, where they retrospectively de-recognized some records due to the position used and then introduced the 'best human effort' category for them?

Yes and it was a failure, hence they reversed it in 2014.

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2020, 05:37:55 pm »
Surely all track events should be done wearing canvas plimsolls painted with that whitener stuff that makes them go stiff and crispy like we had to do at school back in the 70s.
That would stop all this high tech shenanigans.
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

caerau

  • SR x 3 - PBP fail but 1090 km - hey - not too bad
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2020, 05:52:51 pm »
Barefoot and naked, like in the days of Plato.  Only way to be sure.
It's a reverse Elvis thing.

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2020, 07:04:59 pm »
And there was I naively thinking that the hour rules were changed because it was considered right that the record could be held by a Briton.

Sorry to be so opaque:  I meant to say "NOT right" !

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2020, 11:10:13 am »
Athletics has had a problem where changing tech has cause significant leaps in performance before in at least 2 different disciplines.
When Pole Vault poles changed from steel/wood  to fibreglass springs, you could get a couple of feet higher. But the technique changed as well - you had to provide the energy for the spring to fling you over the bar. It seems normal to us now.
They are also continually changing the rules for the javelin. This one is more of a problem - if you introduce a javelin that flies a lot further then suddenly the top guys can throw it onto the track (or into the stands)!!!  :o So they have to deliberately hobble javelin technology to ensure the safety of everyone in the stadium!

The shoes don't need a change in technique - if you are fast enough to be near the front then you have a technique that will mean that you benefit from the springs in the shoes. But ultimately, no-one is harmed by fast shoes - it just means that distance running has suddenly become a technology enhanced sport. The IAAF just needs to decide whether it's happy with that idea...

Edit - found a 3rd - high jump with springs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Stepanov_(athlete)

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #20 on: January 31, 2020, 02:50:03 pm »
TBF, running has been a technology-enhanced sport since we first strapped leaves to our feet.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #21 on: January 31, 2020, 03:05:05 pm »
It doesn't help that the Vaporfly is a damn fugly shoe.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2020, 10:03:37 am »
Here's an interesting article about it, with a good imaginary conversation between the IAAF and Nike:-

https://www.outsideonline.com/2408971/nike-vaporfly-controversy
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2020, 10:04:16 am »
(Also a picture of the Vaporfly's from above, my $DEITY they're even more ugly than I thought. The shape of the heel! The curve. They look like they've been left too close to a fire.)
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Re: Can a shoe impart unfair performance enhancement?
« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2020, 08:18:35 pm »
And you think they couldn't make it any uglier:-

https://twitter.com/seaningle/status/1225136372891168769

and these comply with the 40mm heel restrictions from World Athletics.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."