NCAA steeplechase champ, US Olympian and Vaporfly Researcher Shalaya Kipp Talks about the New Shoe Regulations

After World Athletics released its new shoe rules today, we recorded a special bonus podcast about the ruling. We invited 2012 NCAA steeplechase champ and US Olympian Shalaya Kipp, who is now a PhD candidate in Exercise Physiology at the University of British Columbia, to be our expert guest. Kipp, along with others, including Wouter Hoogkamer and Rodger Kram, has published three different scientific papers dealing with the technology behind the Nike Vaporfly shoes.

We could think of no better guest to feature than Kipp; she was part of the study published in November 2017 that actually gave the Vaporflys their 4% name as the scientists behind that study found that they boosted running economy by 2-6%.

You will eventually be able to listen to the whole podcast here, and we encourage you to do so as it was fascinating to hear from Kipp. But if you don’t have 23 minutes to listen to Kipp, then we’ve got virtually all of her best comments transcribed for you below. She reacts to the ruling, talks about what it was like to watch the marathon in 2016 knowing the Nike athletes had a huge advantage, and how she believes the new shoes kept her training partner Kara Goucher off the 2016 Olympic team.

Shalaya Kipp overall is very pleased with World Athletics’ new shoe regulations

I guess the thing I was most excited to see was that no prototypes can be used in subsequent competitions [after April 30, 2020,] and that the product needs to be on the market for at least four months. That really made me happy… Putting that four months in there, I liked that a lot…

We point the finger at Nike but really everyone is running in prototypes – we’ve got to remember that…

The fun scientist in me doesn’t want to limit innovation too much. I think it’s great that someone wanted to go out with a waffle iron and start creating their own shoes. I don’t want to put too many limits [on innovation]. What I do want to see is that the athletes aren’t getting the butt end of that. [I want it to be fair] for all of them. I’m happy with the limitations that came out. I wouldn’t have added anything.

Shalaya Kipp thinks other shoe companies will catch up with Nike and that the playing field will be level “within a year or two.” In the interim, she urges the non-Nike companies to let their athletes race in Nikes. “They need to let their athletes run in the Nike Vaporfly right now if they want their athletes to be performing well or they are going to be at a disadvantage.”

You know I think it’s definitely feasible [for the other companies to catch up]. I don’t think it’s that hard for them… As long as they start developing their own foams, getting a carbon-fiber plate in there. We’re going to see it happen. It’s going to take a little catchup but within a year or two, I think it’s going to all become a wash again and the playing field is gonna become level… Maybe I’m an optimist. I want that for the sport.

I really hope that those shoe companies are doing their own internal tests and they know how well their shoe is performing. And if their shoe is not up to standards, they need to let their athletes run in the Nike Vaporfly right now if they want their athletes to be performing well or they are going to be at a disadvantage. We know that that shoe is working well and that it’s creating all the results.

[In our study, we tested] the shoes that they used in Rio and it was the same shoe they used for the Olympic Trials…It wasn’t [called] the Nike 4% at the time as that comes from our findings. All [Nike] said was “this shoe is special.” And actually the whole time we were calling it “The Magic” because we didn’t have a name for it and really whenever we put someone in the shoe in the lab, it seemed like a magical result that was coming out. 

posted Saturday February 1st
by Robert Johnson