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Should Nike's Controversial New Super Sneakers Be Banned From Pro Sports?

First, Nike released the Pro Hijab for female Muslim athletes. Now they’re moving on to further push sports boundaries with their newly debuted “super sneakers.” The company aims to break the running world’s most intimidating barrier — the sub-two-hour marathon — with its Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoes.

Nike chose three of the top long-distance runners in the world — Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese and Lelisa Desisa — to wear the sneakers at the upcoming Breaking2 race in Italy. Nike will custom-tune the shoes to each athlete with the goal of getting the runners to shave a few minutes off the current marathon world record of 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds.

How, exactly, will the special sneaks make athletes more efficient than any other running shoes on the market? The Vaporfly Elite’s upturned heel is designed for ultimate aerodynamics, according to Nike, and helps to propel runners forward. What’s more, the Vaporflys are ultra-lightweight (6.5 ounces, or 0.4 pounds), and feature a carbon-fiber sole and “a thick but lightweight midsole that is said to return 13 percent more energy than more conventional foam midsoles,” according to The New York Times.

But is this extreme performance-enhancement kosher, or does it give runners an unfair leg up on the competition? Nike’s senior director for global running footwear, Bret Schoolmeester, told The New York Times, “To me, it’s kind of a compliment when you are delivering a big enough benefit that people are starting to ask, is this unfair?” Schoolmeester further explains that the company is not using any illegal springs, and that the carbon-fiber soles have been previously used in the industry.

Still, the International Association of Athletics Federations tells the Times that it has “received a number of inquiries about elite runners wearing new designs made by various companies.” The IAAF is likely making a thinly veiled reference to the Vaporfly Elites and will meet in the next two weeks to see if the federation should "change or review approvals” for the game-changing shoe.

While you have to be a Nike-sponsored athlete to get your feet into a pair of the Vaporfly Elites, the company will debut a consumer version of the shoe on June 8. (Sneakerheads, mark your calendars!)

—Erin Mosbaugh

Erin has made telling stories about food her profession. You can find those stories in Food & Wine, LA Weekly, Serious Eats, KCET, Robb Report and First We Feast.

What Do YOU Think?

Should the super sneakers be banned from pro sports? Are you planning to buy the Zoom Vaporflys when they are released?

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