Neil Featherby: We need to talk about trainers…









Where does the race to find the fastest trainer end? Picture: PA

During the last week, it has been announced that World Athletics may well ban the shoes which Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei wore for their record breaking marathon runs back in October.

Any such new rules could limit the use of carbon plates and certain other foam substances which are built into the midsoles of these particular running shoes due to their spring like effect which according to the manufacturer allows athletes to use less energy during their runs. This of course is a subject which I wrote about for my column back on December 6.

Apparently it is not just these road racing shoes which are now under review either what with sprint spikes from the same manufacturer also being closely looked at.

You could argue that ever since man and woman have put shoes on their feet to run in, there has been an advantage and in truth several manufacturers have suggested for a number of years now that their shoes do help to increase performance.

The point being is that sports people, especially those who want to be the best they can be, will always take notice of what is potentially the best equipment when it comes to producing peak performances.

Most technical sports have been producing products for years which are designed to give you that added edge, be it where mechanical equipment is used or indeed even a football boot which allegedly helps you kick a ball more sweetly.

However, and whereas running shoe brands may have in the past i.e. prior to 2017, suggested that the technology in their footwear helps with performance, in truth it has been far more about comfort and cushioning for protection.

Running has always been regarded as being a very pure sport and one which relies on one's own natural ability, combined with of course a disciplined commitment from the athlete towards their training. Let's not discuss the drug cheats of course.

My question is this though, if for instance a very good world class sprinter was to put on a pair of specialist spikes which really did give a significant gain and he was to break Usain Bolt's 100 metres world record of 9.58 secs, would that make him a better sprinter than Bolt, especially if he could not do the same if wearing the same model of shoes which Usain wore when setting the record?

This of course is exactly the same when it comes to any athletics event.

Having tested out a pair of shoes as worn by Kipchoge and Kosgei myself albeit the modified version along with that of two rival brands, I am convinced that these shoes do give an advantage.

This is also where I now contradict myself too as whilst I personally think that gaining such an advantage is really not ethical, at the same time and as said in my previous column about this subject, if they had been around back in my day, then yes I would have worn them, albeit more due to not wanting to be at a disadvantage to other runners who might have been wearing them.

Needless to say, the manufacturers themselves know that this is the type of thoughts which will go through a runner's mind for which they also know they can set the cost of any such product high.

As absolutely as ridiculous as this may sound, but if someone turned up on a start line with visible mechanical springs attached to their footwear, I am pretty sure other athletes and officials apart from standing there in fits of laughter, when all was said and done, they would soon react in a negative manner.

Therefore, if these technologies are hidden within a covered midsole does it then make it okay?

If nothing else I am sure this week's column will create some further debate.

On another note and talking of the purer side of sport and sporting achievements, well done to Mandy Foyster who so many of us followed during her amazing efforts in the 268 mile Spine Race along the Pennine Way.

Whilst she is absolutely phenomenal, she is also one of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Neil Featherby's EDP FEATURE