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Laura Muir’s Nike spike prototypes spark controversy

An unnamed Nike rival threatens to challenge the legality of the shoe worn by the Scottish runner when she smashed the British indoor mile record on February 16

Scottish runner Laura Muir broke the 31-year-old British record for the indoor mile last week at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham with her 4:18.75 finish, but there’s some controversy about whether her Nike shoes were legal.

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British runner Laura Muir

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reports that the Nike-sponsored athlete’s spikes were quite different from what she has worn in the past and from traditional track spikes. The IAAF has said it will examine the situation if it receives a complaint, and an unidentified rival equipment manufacturer claims to be preparing to challenge the shoe’s legality.

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The issue appears to be that Muir was running in a modified Vaporfly prototype that may not be available to other athletes. IAAF rule 143 states that ‘any type of shoe used must be reasonably available to all in the spirit of athletics. Shoes must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage.’ It seems to echo similar controversy over the Nike Vaporfly 4%, which claims to give marathoners a four per cent boost in running economy and a possible unfair advantage (though the shoe is widely available).


It’s possible Muir was wearing something similar to what triathlete-turned-marathoner Gwen Jorgensen wore at last year’s USATF Championships in the 10,000m, which was basically the 4% but modified for her, with 5 mm pins and a lugged plate at the front of the outsole. Jorgensen is known to like a shoe with more cushioning under the heel and a higher drop (heel-to-toe height differential) due to issues with her achilles tendons. Jorgensen finished seventh, and the shoe sparked curiosity but not controversy.


If a complaint is lodged and the shoes are found not to comply with the rules, athletes could be banned from wearing them in competition going forward, though it appears unlikely to threaten ratification of Muir’s record.