Earlier this year, World Athletics announced major changes to its rules on footwear. The new regulations imposed an immediate ban on any shoe with a sole thicker than 40mm, as well as on shoes that contained more than one plate.
In a bid to ensure shoes worn by some athletes didn’t offer an unfair advantage, the rules also stated that any shoe used in competition must have been available for purchase on the retail market for a period of four months. This move effectively banned the use of prototypes in competition.
On Tuesday 28 July, World Athletics announced further revisions to their rules on shoes which included changes to the height of the spikes on track shoes and the establishment of an ‘Athletic Shoe Availability Scheme’ for unsponsored elite athletes. The 40mm rule on road shoes remains unchanged.
The rules around the Athletic Shoe Availability Scheme state, ‘Approved shoes to be made available prior to an international competition for distribution to any uncontracted elite athlete via an Athletic Shoe Availability Scheme. The Working Group on Athletic Shoes will develop this scheme including timelines, elite athlete criteria, numbers of pairs of shoes required and method of distribution.’ This means unsponsored athletes will be able to run in a pair of shoes of their choosing at World Athletics Series events or Olympic Games.
For track events from 800m and above, the maximum thickness of the sole of the running shoe is now 25mm. For track events up to, but not including, the 800m, the maximum thickness of the sole is now 20mm.
World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon said the postponement of the Olympic Games due to Covid-19 had given the governing body more time to consult with stakeholders and experts and develop the amended rules.
Ridgeon said, ‘We have a better understanding now of what technology is already in the market and where we need to draw the line to maintain the status quo until after the Tokyo Olympic Games.
‘In developing these rules we have been mindful of the principles of fair play and universality, maintaining the health and safety of athletes, reflecting the existing shoe market in these challenging economic times, and achieving a broad consensus with the shoe manufacturers who are major investors in our sport.
‘These transitional rules give us more time to develop a set of working rules for the long term, which will be introduced after the Olympic Games next year, with the aim of achieving the right balance between innovation, competitive advantage and universality.’
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