These controversial running shoes are breaking records. But do they lend an unfair advantage?

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% Sneakers
Credit: ANGELA WEISS/Getty Images

On Sunday, New York Marathon spectators noticed that several runners were wearing the same exact style of sneakers: a $250 pair of Nike shoes in either neon green or hot pink. It wasn't because it's the latest fashion trend: The in-demand Nike shoes are actually a controversial creation designed to help runners pick up speed like no other shoe.

Take a closer look at the sneaker and you'll notice that it has a very thick sole. This is filled with carbon plates separated by cushions. Together, they function like a spring, which gives runners wearing the shoes an advantage. On Nike's website, the label says, "The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% clears your path to record-breaking speed with a lighter design and faster feel than before."

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% Sneaker
Credit: Courtesy

As The Times reports, "Dennis Kimetto’s 2014 world record of 2:2:57 has been bettered on five occasions, each time by an athlete wearing the shoe." Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon (26.2 miles, people) in less than two hours last month — the fastest time ever recorded in the entire world — in those same exact Nike sneakers. According to the New York Times, the record-breaking time, "will not be officially recognized as a world record because it was not run under open marathon conditions and because it featured a dense rotation of professional pacesetters."

The International Association of Athletics Federation has received reports about the shoes affecting races. In response, the IAAF said, "Recent advances in technology mean that the concept of ‘assistance’ to athletes… has been the subject of much debate in the athletics world. The IAAF has established a working group to consider the issues."

But isn't that the responsibility of athletic brands like Nike, to figure out how to best assist athletes? Only time will tell if the shoes will continue to be allowed in races. But if you're thinking about putting them to the test, you can grab a pair now before it's too late.