Running Shoe Regulations for Competition Updated

running shoe regulations

Media Release from World Athletics:

World Athletics today announces further revisions to its rules governing shoe technology, which are designed to give certainty to athletes preparing for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and to preserve the integrity of elite competition.

These amendments, approved by the World Athletics Council and introduced further revisions to its rules governing shoe technology, with immediate effect, are based on significant ongoing discussions with the Working Group on Athletic Shoes, established this year, and with the shoe manufacturers.

They include changes to the maximum height of spiked shoes for track and field events and the establishment of an ‘Athletic Shoe Availability Scheme’ for unsponsored elite athletes. The maximum height for road shoes (40mm) remains unchanged.

The purpose of these amendments is to maintain the current technology status quo until the Olympic Games in Tokyo across all events until a newly formed Working Group on Athletic Shoes, which includes representatives from shoe manufacturers and the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI), have had the opportunity to set the parameters for achieving the right balance between innovation, competitive advantage and universality and availability.

The amendments include:

  1. Clarification of the position for new shoes that have been approved to date;
  2. As an ongoing obligation, athletes, their authorised representative or their shoe manufacturer must continue to submit shoe specifications and, if requested, new shoes for examination by our independent expert;
  3. Approved shoes to be made available prior to an international competition for distribution to any uncontracted elite athlete via an Athletic Shoe Availability Scheme. The Working Group on Athletic Shoes will develop this scheme including timelines, elite athlete criteria, numbers of pairs of shoes required and method of distribution.
  4. Confirmation that the manufacturer commits to making the new shoe available via a scheme to provide shoes to unsponsored elite athletes for free and/or for purchase depending on whether they are qualified or an unqualified athlete who benefits from a place at World Athletics Series events or Olympic Games;
  5. Provision of information concerning the availability of the shoe for other unsponsored elite athletes who need a pair of shoes prior to competition. This is in keeping with the principle of shoes being reasonably available to athletes. As a priority item, in its forthcoming meeting we will work with the working group and World Federation of Sports Goods Industry to design an ‘Athletic Shoe Availability Scheme’ to deliver this. The scheme will cover process, criteria, numbers of pairs of shoes required, method of distribution and when the shoe needs to be available from (our position, which has been generally accepted by manufacturers, is for one month prior to international competition). 


The maximum height of the track spike shoes have been amended as set out in the table below:

EventMaximum thickness of the sole (As per rule 5.5, notes (i), (ii), (iii) and figures (a) & (b) to rule 5.5, and rule 5.13.3).Further rule requirement
Field events (except triple jump)20mmApplies to all throwing events, and vertical and horizontal jumping events except the triple jump. For all field events, the sole at the centre of the athlete’s forefoot must not be higher than the sole at centre of the athlete’s heel.
Triple jump25mmThe sole at the centre of the athlete’s forefoot must not be higher than the sole at centre of the athlete’s heel.
Track events (including hurdle events) up to but not including 800m20mmFor relays the rule applies to the distance of the leg being run by each athlete.
Track events from 800m and above (including steeplechase events)25mmFor relays the rule applies to the distance of the leg being run by each athlete. For race walking events the maximum thickness of the sole is the same as that for road events.
Cross country25mm 
Road events (running and race walking events)40mm 
Events under rule 57 of the technical rulesAny thickness 

World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon said the previous rule changes, announced in late January, were designed to give the athletes clarity before the Tokyo Olympic Games, which were originally due to take place in July-August this year.

However the later postponement of the Olympic Games for a full year, due to the global pandemic, had given the governing body more time to consult with stakeholders and experts and develop amended rules that will guide the sport through until late 2021.

“We have a better understanding now of what technology is already in the market and where we need to draw the line to maintain the status quo until after the Tokyo Olympic Games,” Ridgeon said. 

“In developing these rules we have been mindful of the principles of fair play and universality, maintaining the health and safety of athletes, reflecting the existing shoe market in these challenging economic times, and achieving a broad consensus with the shoe manufacturers who are major investors in our sport.

“These transitional rules give us more time to develop a set of working rules for the long term, which will be introduced after the Olympic Games next year, with the aim of achieving the right balance between innovation, competitive advantage and universality.”

Working Group on Athletic Shoes

The new Working Group on Athletic Shoes (WGAS) met for their first meeting last Wednesday (22 July). It is tasked with scoping and overseeing studies around shoe technology, exploring definitions to provide clarity to athletes about the shoes they are able to compete in, creating a robust certification and control process and providing expert advice and recommendations to the World Athletics Competition Commission on the future direction of World Athletics’ Rules and Regulations concerning elite athlete shoes for the long-term which may or may not be different to the current rules. The structure and composition of the WGAS can be found here.

Running in Tarahumara culture

Press Release:

“Running in Tarahumara (Rarámuri) Culture,” just published in Current Anthropology (v61, no. 3 (June 2020): 356-379) studies the Tarahumara Native Americans of northern Mexico. For over a century, the Tarahumara have been famous for their long distance running traditions and abilities, with many accounts claiming they have superhuman athletic abilities that partly result from being uncontaminated by westernization. Now an international team of researchers (including a champion Tarahumara runner) combine their own observations with detailed interviews of elderly Tarahumara runners to dispel these stereotypical myths, which they term the “fallacy of the athletic savage.” Lieberman and colleagues use accounts by Tarahumara runners to detail the various ways Tarahumara used to run for hours to hunt animals, and they describe how the Tarahumara still run traditional long distance races that, for men, involve chasing a small wooden ball and, for women, a hoop. While these many different kinds of running have important social dimensions, running is also a spiritually vital form of prayer for the Tarahumara. Further, contrary to the fallacy of the athletic savage, Tarahumara runners –both men and women– struggle just as much as runners from other cultures to run long distances, and instead of being the natural “superathletes” that some journalists have claimed, they develop their endurance from regular hard work and other endurance physical activities such as lots of walking and dancing.

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Daniel E. Lieberman, Mickey Mahaffey, Silvino Cubesare Quimare, Nicholas B. Holowka, Ian J. Wallace, and Aaron L. Baggish, “Running in Tarahumara (Rarámuri) Culture: Persistence Hunting, Footracing, Dancing, Work, and the Fallacy of the Athletic Savage,” Current Anthropology 61, no. 3 (June 2020): 356-379.

Strength Training for Runners

Strength Training for Runners

Should runners do strength training or should they just run more? What one is going to give the greatest gain in performance and injury prevention? Strength training for runners has always been a bit controversial as some coaches argue that it not worth it and the runner is better of using the time to run more miles.

The evidence and anecdotal experience is, yes, endurance runners will benefit from a strength training program in addition to racking up the miles on the road. This has been shown to improve performance and may also help prevent overuse injury. This may be even more important for older runners who muscles strength declines quite rapidly after the age of 50 years.

What exercises should runners do?

There is plenty of detail and advice available elsewhere as to what exercises runners should do, but they should primarily focus on:

  • the calf muscles with calf raises
  • the quadriceps with leg extensions, squats and lunges
  • the hip abductors with an elastic band around the ankles
  • the core with planks

These would be the main ones. There is no harm in including upper body and arm exercise in to develop an all round fitness, but increased strength there is probably not going to be related to increased running performance or injury prevention.

Is Overpronation a problem in runners?

If you read in many places, you would think that this thing of “overpronation” is evil and something that runners must do about if they have it. Overpronation is when the rearfoot rolls inwards at the ankle and the arch collapses. Foot orthotics and motion control running shoes are widely advocated to treat this. It is quite common to see this advanced as quite a problem in running magazine and running shoe websites. This has been linked to injuries such as plantar fasciitis, medial tibial stress syndrome and runners knee.

On the other hand, you have this video of Haille Gebrselassie running and very severely overpronation. Yet he was at the top of his game and never had any problems with his overpronation. This has led to lots of debates in professional circles and social media about this overpronation.

The reality is that if you read the actual scientific evidence (summarized here), yes overpronation is a problem, but a small problem, though statistically significant. It does increase the risk for a range of injuries in runners, but only a small amount.

The whole area is subject to many myths and to see clearly through it is that you need to stick to what the actual data and evidence shows. The above video of Haille Gebrselassie is an anecdote and not scientific evidence. As pointed out here, you can’t bring anecdotes to debates about data. There is really no debate, the evidence is quite clear on this.