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New regulations to replace Technical Rule 5 relating to athletic shoes, and its transitional provisions, which expire on 31 December 2021, were approved by Council yesterday.
The new rules and regulations will be in place from 1 January 2022. The amendments include:
- The deletion of the transitional provisions inserted in 2020 and 2021, leaving just an enabling rule at Technical Rule 5.2.
- A definition of ‘applicable competitions’ to make the scope of events the rule and regulations apply to clear and to avoid them being applied to amateur club, school or college or even masters level competitions.
- Clarification on which types of customisations are permissible with prior approval from World Athletics. This is to allow adaptations for individual athletes on medical and safety grounds.
- The simplification on sole thicknesses across all athletic shoes in track and field events to a stack height of 20mm from 1 November 2024. This timeline was agreed to give manufacturers sufficient notice following the significant investment they will have made into spike shoes with a sole thickness between 20 and 25mm. The current sole thicknesses will continue until then.
- A more flexible compliance process for athletic shoes to make checking compliance more practical and efficient depending on the nature of the event. Greater emphasis will be placed on conducting post-race spot checks through the introduction of shoe control procedures and a shoe control officer role. There will be some events (e.g. major marathons) where pre-event declarations will continue.
- A new approach to sanctions for breaches of the rules and regulations relating to athletic shoes particularly at events and breaches that come to light post event. Referees’ powers have been made clearer and World Athletics CEO or their nominee has been given the authority to act (or refer the matter to the AIU) where post-competition breaches are identified.
- That athletic shoes must not contain any embedded ‘sensing or intelligent’ technology now or in the future. This does not apply to use of heart rate, speed distance monitors etc.
- Minor word changes and phrasing as part of a general tidying up of the language in the rules and regulations.
Commenting on the new regulations, World Athletics’ Chief Executive Jon Ridgeon said: “There has been an enormous amount of background work and meetings held both internally and externally on our shoe rules since the inception of the Working Group on Athletic Shoes in June 2020, following on from the work in 2019 of its predecessor, the Assistance Review Group. There is still more to do but I would like to thank the Working Group, the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) and the shoe companies for their openness and collaboration in finding solutions that help support innovation on the one hand while ensuring innovation in shoe technology does not create unfairness or a paradigm shift in athletic performances on the other.”
The major and central issue the Working Group on Athletic Shoes had been exploring is a long-term sustainable and implementable solution for athletic shoes which balances innovation and fairness.
The Working Group considered options within a framework of measuring performance advantages of the current technology in athletic shoes including energy return. While this work has merit, a maximum energy return has not been included in the rules and regulations, given the variables involved and the
potential impact on shoe manufacturers in its implementation. The pace of technological change in every sector is rapidly increasing and with it will come new and different challenges to all sport. World Athletics will continue its dialogue with the shoe manufacturing industry on a regular basis in 2022 and beyond.