If the shoe fits (and it’s legal) wear it

SA adopts new World Athletics regulations on competition-legal footwear

Following a similar decision by UKAthletics, scottishathletics has confirmed that it has adopted the new World Athletics regulations for athletics shoes. 

The move comes after what feels like years of controversy surrounding whether certain types of trainers – like Nike’s Vaporfly range  – can give athletes and unfair edge over other competitors. 

The new rules will be enforced at all events licensed by scottishathletics, including those scheduled to be held next month, like the Monument Mile Classic in Stirling.

At events not hosted by scottishathletics themselves, it will fall to the event organisers to ensure their competitors’ footwear conforms to UKA rules, as per the terms of their licences. While the changes are unlikely to shake up the podium of your local charity 10k race, it will be interesting to see what effect they have on elite competition.

Many runners have spoken both off and on the record about the advantages they perceive rival athletes – sponsored by other sportswear companies – may have over them – advantages that they feel cannot be offset by more intensive training on their part.

It’s also fair to say that the focus of the reporting on many recent performances – like Brigid Kosgei’s smashing of Paula Radcliffe’s women’s marathon record at Chicago, or even those of Scotland’s own athletics superstars Jemma Reekie and Laura Muir – has focused as much on the athletes’ choice of footwear as it has their fitness. 

As a result, the new regulations – largely to do with the height of the soles and any ‘rigid plate or blade made from carbon fibre or another material’ embedded in them – are the result of dialogue between the World Athletics Council and the shoe manufacturers themselves.

In addition to listing ‘approved competition shoes’, the amended WA regulations clearly state that any shoes worn in competition ‘must not give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage. Any type of shoe must be reasonably available to all in the spirit of the universality of athletics.’

With that in mind, they also make clear that since this April any shoe used must have been available for purchase, either in store on online, at least four months prior to a competition. Otherwise, it will be considered a ‘prototype’ and cannot be used. 

If a referee has doubts about the legality of an athlete’s footwear, they may request the shoes be handed over for examination at the end of the competition. 

As WA guidelines also clearly state that ‘athletes may compete barefoot or with footwear on one or both feet’, runners who don’t want to risk disqualification still have a Plan B to fall back on! 


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