A former marathon record holder says runners using high-tech shoes are 'cheating'

Jacob Moreton
·2-min read
Photo credit: Patrik Lundin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Patrik Lundin - Getty Images

Runners using high-tech shoes are ‘cheating’, an ex-marathon world record holder has said.

Tegla Loroupe, a Kenyan former distance runner, said that the growth of high-tech shoes means ‘there is no human energy’ involved in winning endurance races.

Speaking to the BBC, she said, ‘You are cheating, you are not a hero because you don't use your own strength.

‘You can have a faster shoe [but] what about those who cannot afford [them], it's almost like doping, for me there is no difference between doping and having a faster shoe,’ she added.

Loroupe, 47, was the first African woman to hold the marathon world record, which she held from 1998 until 2001. She attracted attention throughout her career for often choosing to run barefoot, including her appearance at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

‘[It's] good to have shoes but to have this element that other athletes cannot afford, it's wrong. For me, the shoes should be banned so that people can trust themselves, they can train and see that I am able to do.

‘We ran without shoes and when we got shoes, it's just normal shoes, but we still broke the world record.’

To critics such Loroupe, shoes like Nike’s Vaporfly range represent an unfair advantage to those athletes who can afford them. Eliud Kipchoge wore an Alphafly prototype, part of the Vaporfly range, when he became the first athlete to run a sub-two hour marathon in 2019. Kipchoge’s fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei also wore a Vaporfly prototype when she beat Paula Radcliffe’s women’s marathon world record in October that year.

As a result, in 2020 World Athletics tightened the rules for athletes using new shoe technology – any product will have to be available on the market for four months before they can be used in competition, while any shoe with a sole bigger than 40mm saw an immediate indefinite ban.

World Athletics president Lord Coe said at the time, ‘As we enter the Olympic year, we don't believe we can rule out shoes that have been generally available for a considerable period of time, but we can draw a line by prohibiting the use of shoes that go further than what is currently on the market while we investigate further.

‘I believe these new rules strike the right balance by offering certainty to athletes and manufacturers as they prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, while addressing the concerns that have been raised about shoe technology.’

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