Rugged Individualist. Certified USA Triathlon Coach & NASM Personal Trainer, Men's Self Improvement Coach. President of Go Farther Sports. National Ranked Triathlete & 100 Mile Grand Slam Ultrarunner, only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Friday, October 18, 2019

"Performance Enhancing" Shoes? Nope. Just More Effficient on Energy Return. So What's the Controversy?

I like to address the "gray area" of performance enhancing equipment. And why there is a controversy when I really think there isn't one.

Last weekend, we had some big things happening in marathon and triathlon. We had Kipchoge break the elusive 2 hour barrier in the marathon. We had Jan Frodeno break the Ironman Hawaii record in hot, windy conditions. And we had Brigid Kosgei break the women's world record at the Chicago Marathon.

I'm not sure about Brigid Kosgei, but the other 2 have achieved their feats with "performance enhancing" shoes with carbon plates in them that are designed to bounce back, adding a spring-like return on the push-off.Here is an article about the shoes Kipchoge wore in his sub 2 hour marathon: 'It feels like running on trampolines' - Kipchoge & Kosgei's marathon trainers

As this article suggests, there seems to be some controversy about these products. And I remember some of the governing bodies banning some of them from their competition (remember Spiro shoes and USATF?).

The problem with calling this "cheating" is that endurance sports have been providing technological advances in products since the dawn of time. We now have very light carbon bikes in triathlon and there seems to be no complaints. The swimming pools are now engineered to eliminate waves the swimmers make, making them all faster. That's not to mention the new hydrophobic swim skins that the swimmers wear themselves. Heck, even the tech shirts all of us runners wear nowadays is a huge step up from the old moisture-absorbing cotton shirts that we wore in the 80s, giving us all a "performance boost" in races.

To all those who consider the shoes that Kipchoge and Frodeno wore "cheating", where do you draw the line? Do we go back to the heavy steel bikes and cotton shirts again?

In my opinion, there really is no controversy. All of these products are considered "performance enhancing", but the energy still comes from the athletes themselves! These products just make it more efficient to deliver that energy to where it's needed.

There's no outside force that's propelling these athletes to new highs. So I see nothing wrong with the shoes these athletes wore at all.

The only controversy that I might see regarding this subject is if the cost of the new technology is outside the reach of 90% of the public. For instance, if a shoe delivered, say, a 20% increase in times yet it would cost $30,000 to obtain the shoe, then I can understand that argument. But most of these products are within a fair price range of the public.

Anyway, I would love to hear your take on this. As one popular host says, change my mind. 😁

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