Rob de Castella, the great Australian in the marathon, calls for a Nike shoe ban

British newspaper The Times reported Wednesday that World Athletics is likely to ban shoes and introduce a rule to limit the depth of a shoe’s midsole.

De Castella, 62, who still holds the oceanic marathon record, said shoes must be banned to prevent a “flood” of technological advances that could jeopardize the “simplicity and beauty” of running.

“The concept of walking with feathers on your feet is just ridiculous – it definitely has to be addressed,” he said. “I’m not in favor of technology that offers an unfair or unnatural advantage.”

A recent study in the New York Times found that over 40 percent of marathons completed in less than three hours last year were run by runners wearing a version of the shoes, either the Vaporfly 4% or Next %.

Rob de Castella says shoes should be banned.

Photo credit: Jay Cronan

De Castella said when he set the ocean record in 1986 and completed the Boston Marathon in just two hours and seven minutes, the advances in technology at that time were based on making the shoes lighter.

“Road racing shoes have evolved dramatically, but it never got to the point where there was an artificial increase in performance,” he said.

Olympic gold medalist Libby Trickett said the controversy commemorates the swimsuit debate in 2009 in which Olympic champion Ian Thorpe’s banned overall was used.

“Looking back on 2009, the super suits were a great improvement in performance,” she said. “The reason they frustrated me is that not everyone had access to these special suits, and I think a lot of the problems come from there.”

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The shoes have raised particular concerns among athletes and competitive brands that were not sponsored by Nike.

“I think it gets pretty complicated here,” said Trickett. “If the whole sport does not include it, it cannot be corrected. What an athlete wears should only make up 1 percent of his abilities.”

Former indoor sprint world champion Melinda Gainsford-Taylor agreed that the shoes were an unfair advantage.

“Everyone wants to improve and be the best these days,” she said. “I don’t think it should be part of the sport … it depends on human skills if you want to be the best, how hard you can work.”

Sarah is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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