World Athletics have announced that its previous rule, imposed in January 2020, governing the use of ‘development’ shoes (prototypes) will be amended again following lobbying from the World Federation of the Sports Goods Industry (‘WFSGI’). Posing the question “can you race in prototypes running shoes?

Can you race in Prototypes Nike Hyperfly


In January 2020, World Athletics announced that from April of this year, prototype shoes, in other words, shoes that were not yet on general sale, would be banned from professional competition in which World Athletics’ competition and technical rules apply. It also added that shoes could not have a ‘stack-height’, the amount of foam underneath the foot, greater than 40mm or, more than one carbon-fibre plate.

The rule required any shoe worn by a professional athlete to have been on sale for at least 4 months prior to use. For the consumer, this brought huge benefits and it resulted in a whole plethora of new carbon fibre plated shoes being released perhaps earlier than they would have been otherwise.

Whats changed with racing in prototypes

However, in a press release issued on 6th December 2020, World Athletics announced that it had decided to reverse that previous rule, to some extent at least. The announcement stated that this decision had been reached following requests from WFSGI. It is safe to conclude that the major sports companies put significant pressure of World Athletics to change course and they duly buckled.

The rule change now means that development shoes, or shoes that have not been available for general purchase, providing they meet the necessary limits on technical specifications (with respect to stack-height etc), can be worn in all international competitions sanctioned by World Athletics, Area Associations or Member Federations where World Athletics’ competition and technical rules apply. This rule includes both road shoes and spikes.

However, the shoes will not be allowed at any World Athletics Series events or the Olympic Games. That is likely to see the World Marathon Majors, for example, as key opportunities for the deployment of the newest prototypes.

The prototype technicalities

The amended rules also limit the amount of time athletes can wear these shoes as protypes. All shoes will be afforded development status for a maximum 12-month period and the World Athletics website will post a list of approved prototype shoes with their expiry date included too. This approval process can include requiring whole or partial samples of the development shoe be submitted for testing. Once the 12-month period ends, the shoe will either need to be released for general sale or removed completely from use. World Athletics has confirmed that any results an athlete obtains in an approved development shoe will be regarded as a valid result with respect to the earning of points and world records, for example.

In a statement, Jon Ridgeon, CEO of World Athletics said: “The use of competition to complete the final testing of development shoes by manufacturers has always been an important part of the shoe development process. This year has been a difficult one for both shoe manufacturers and athletes with significant disruption to manufacturing and reduced access to competitions for athletes around the world. With shoe manufacturers agreeing to our new process of submitting specifications and shoes, if required, for approval ahead of being worn in competition, we are confident that this amendment will not impact the integrity of competition”.

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