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News / 13.12.23

The Super Shoe Debate

This year’s Irish Life Dublin Marathon generated over 48,000 mentions on social media. And while competitors had their eyes fixed on the finish line, others had their eyes focused firmly on the feet of those competing.

It’s now a given that the top competitors will wear a form of super shoes; designed to be faster, lighter, and more responsive than traditional running shoes, several studies have shown that super shoes can allow elite athletes to gain up to four minutes of improvement on their race time.

In fact, super shoes, in particular Nike Alphaflys, were the catalyst for the first ever sub two-hour marathon to be completed, with Eliud Kipchoge running the INEOS1:59 Challenge in 1 hour and 59 minutes. In Wired’s article about the science behind his run, Kipchoge’s “efficiency enhancing shoes” were called out as a key element to his success.

Since the development of their super shoes in 2016, Nike have dominated the field; their athletes won 31 of the 36 podium places in 2019’s six major marathons. However, this is beginning to change.

This year’s Boston Marathon saw all three male winners on the podium wearing Adidas’ Adios Pro 3s, while the Berlin Marathon saw Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa smash the women’s world record, also while wearing a pair of Adidas shoes.

And as Kemal Husen and Amente Sorome Negash smashed records crossing the finish line in Dublin this year, while celebration of their achievements was the key topic of conversation, there was inevitably also some chat about their footwear.

So how does social media weigh in on the great super shoe debate?

With over 120,000 mentions of super shoes on social media so far in 2023, people had a lot to say about the footwear, with cost vs. value being one of the key drivers of conversation. As much as we all like to pretend we’re elite athletes, are they really worth the price tag for a Saturday parkrun?

Another area of concern was the “removal of a level playing field” and whether they create an “unfair advantage for some competitors”.

Scientific studies into the effectiveness of super shoes were also frequently shared, as was praise for the incredible athletes smashing world records in them.

Adidas came under fire on social media, as they announced their new Adios Pro Evo 1s, a single-use shoe for Adidas-sponsored marathon runners, generating strong criticism for their “lack of awareness” and contribution to “unnecessary landfill”.

Social media also saw the promotion and celebration of “low-tech running”, with many claiming that if you want to go for a run, not intentionally to quote Nike, but just do it. You don’t need a smart watch or super shoes, just get out, enjoy yourself and hey who knows, maybe next year you’ll find yourself on the streets of Dublin as part of the 2024 Irish Life Dublin Marathon.

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