Sunday’s Houston Marathon saw huge results and a new shoe on the feet of some of the fastest runners. The Adidas prototype isn’t something we’ve seen before, and appears to stand even higher than Nike’s Next%. The all-white shoe has very subtle markings, with huge stack height and a line through the midsole, that presumably sandwiches a carbon plate.
Can't tell exactly what's on their feet, but Philemon Kiplimo (4th, 59:28) and Abel Kipchumba (5th, 59:35; both in light blue singlets) appear to be wearing a very thick-soled adidas prototype shoe at the Houston Half Marathon. pic.twitter.com/OkM87zLh9j
— Jonathan Gault (@jgault13) January 19, 2020
The shoe was on the feet of Philemon Kiplimo and Abel Kipchumba, both Adidas athletes who finished in 59:28 and 59:35 respectively, for fourth and fifth place.
Adidas was the one company that had kept a low profile about a prototype shoe, until days before the 2019 New York Marathon, where two of their fastest women, Mary Keitany and Joyciline Jepkosgei, would be running. There, the Adidas athletes went one-two in the race, each wearing different shoes. Keitany’s had a strong resemblance to the Adidas Adizero Pro. But the shoe spotted Sunday was very different from what Keitany wore in New York.
— EKIDEN News (@EKIDEN_News) January 19, 2020
Over time, it has become obvious that the Nike Vaporfly 4% and Vaporfly NEXT%, which have a thick layer of highly responsive Nike-patented foam in the midsole as well as an embedded carbon-fibre plate, have contributed to a significant drop in marathon times across the board. Numerous brands now offer shoes with a carbon-fibre midsole plate, while Nike’s latest model, the AlphaFly (worn by Eliud Kipchoge at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in October), incorporates not one, but three carbon-fibre plates.
As more records are broken and shoes are getting higher, there have been multiple reports that the IAAF could step in. Some insiders have predicted a ban that would cover the very thick-soled AlphaFly but not the Vaporfly or NEXT% (which are slightly less thick), but some are now speculating about other ways of measuring and limiting the benefit conferred by the technology.