Sebastian Coe shrugs off concerns that Nike track spikes give unfair advantage

  • Contentious shoes worn by numerous recent record-breakers
  • World Athletics chief does not want to ‘suffocate innovation’

Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, has dismissed concerns that Nike’s controversial new track spikes, which have produced a spate of recent world records, could provide an unfair advantage at the Olympics.

Lord Coe said he was “pretty calm” about the game-changing spikes and did not want to “stifle innovation” despite Joshua Cheptegei and Letesenbet Gidey breaking the men’s 10,000m and the women’s 5,000m records within an hour of each other in October. Both were wearing Nike ZoomX Dragonfly spikes, billed as the “fastest shoes ever”.

With Mo Farah and Sifan Hassan also breaking the men’s and women’s one-hour records wearing new Nike shoes in Brussels in September, there have been suggestions that the company could enjoy a similar dominance on the track as it did in the marathon between 2016 and 2019, with other brands potentially taking years to catch up.

However, Coe said he was confident that history would not repeat itself. “I’m not sitting in fear of that,” he added, stressing that it was a good thing for shoe manufacturers to try to outdo each other.

“I remember a period in the mid-2000s where Adidas were the kings of the podium, particularly in distance,” he said. “So these things come in cycles. And there is a built-in dynamic where shoe companies mercifully are still investing a lot of money into the research and development of shoes. And I’m pleased they’re doing that.”

Last year World Athletics introduced new rules for track spikes, limiting the use of plates and restricting the sole to be no thicker 30mm. However, Coe said the organisation also had a system that could “permanently review these spikes” if they were proved to be unfair. Coe also denied that the succession of world records on the road in recent years – including, most recently, four men running inside the half-marathon best in November – was undermining the sport.

“I don’t think we’ve reached that point where world records are being handed out like confetti,” he insisted. “And if I go back to the 1930s I still marvel at Rudolf Harbig who ran 1:46 and bits for 800m on a cinder track. And I still marvel at Peter Snell, who ran world records and some significantly sub-1:45s on grass tracks. Meanwhile Derek Clayton ran a world marathon record [2:09:36] in shoes that you wouldn’t have gone for a stroll with in your local park.

“At the moment I’m pretty calm about this. And the balance of judgment here is always – and I guess this is a personal instinct of mine as well – that we shouldn’t be in the business of trying to suffocate innovation.”


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sebastian Coe warns it will be harder than ever to cheat at Tokyo Olympics
Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics president, said athletics drug cheats will be ‘fearlessly weeded out’

Sean Ingle

22, Dec, 2020 @5:00 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe admits he has not read report which led to Salazar’s ban
Sebastian Coe has admitted he has not read the report that led to Alberto Salazar being banned by the US Anti-Doping Agency and also cautioned those criticising Sifan Hassan

Sean Ingle in Doha

06, Oct, 2019 @7:34 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe indicates IAAF will challenge female testosterone ruling
The IAAF president said it was ‘a sensitive subject, they are athletes, they are daughters, they are sisters’

Guardian sport

11, Aug, 2016 @12:30 PM

Article image
Tokyo Olympics could be delayed due to coronavirus, admits Sebastian Coe
The World Athletics president has admitted ‘nobody is saying we will be going to the Games come what may’ as the debate over whether the Tokyo Olympics should be staged this summer continues to intensify

Sean Ingle

19, Mar, 2020 @1:00 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe says delaying Olympics relieved 'mental turmoil' of athletes
The president of World Athletics said ‘sport, on this occasion, had to take a back seat’ over postponing of Tokyo Olympics until 2021

Ewan Murray

29, Mar, 2020 @4:17 PM

Article image
Tokyo Olympics team has 'cast-iron will' for 2021 event, says Sebastian Coe
Sebastian Coe said he has ‘a pretty high level of confidence’ the Tokyo Games will happen in 2021 despite daily coronavirus cases in Japan reaching a record level this week

Sean Ingle

10, Dec, 2020 @5:58 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe backs ‘purple patch’ Laura Muir to paint Tokyo gold in 2020
Sebastian Coe, a double Olympic champion, said there is ‘no question’ Laura Muir can win middle-distance gold at next year’s Tokyo Olympics

Sean Ingle

04, Mar, 2019 @9:59 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe steps down from ambassadorial role with Nike
Sebastian Coe has stepped down from his ambassadorial role with Nike with immediate effect

Owen Gibson in Monte Carlo

26, Nov, 2015 @6:02 PM

Article image
High time that Nike and the IAAF did the right thing by athletes | Sean Ingle
The stars of track and field need a powerful and independent union to protect them from abuse from the sportswear giant Nike and the mismanagement of the governing body, the IAAF

Sean Ingle

11, Nov, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
Sebastian Coe digs in over Nike fee while questions grow about Eugene
The IAAF president Sebastian Coe was digging in over his ambassadorial role with Nike as questions mounted about Eugene bid

Sean Ingle and Owen Gibson

25, Nov, 2015 @5:26 PM