AW shoe guru Paul Freary looks ahead to the epic clash between Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele – and their Nike footwear – at the London Marathon
Sunday’s 40th edition of the London Marathon promises to be one of the best yet, with many already seeing it as a two-way battle between Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele. There’s also lots of talk about the possibility of a world best, with the two men currently holding the two fastest official times in history, just two seconds apart.
But above all this, there’s also lots of talk (as now seems to be the norm with marathons) about the shoes each athlete will wear.
Kenya’s Kipchoge will wear a special edition colour of the shoes that helped him to his sub-two-hour marathon last October in Vienna, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%. Part of that special edition is his 1:59:40 time printed on the heel – a clear reminder to those behind him of his personal best!
Bekele, however, has chosen to wear the previous version of the carbon-plated shoe, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%.
The Ethiopian says he needs more time in order to adjust to the Alphafly and so will stick with what he knows work.
The obvious difference in the two shoes is the addition of the twin large forefoot air pods in the Alphafly compared to the Vaporfly. These pods aim to provide a little more cushioning as well as increasing the already responsive feel of the shoes. The Alphafly is also a little wider (in terms of the footprint of its sole) as well as being a slightly higher stack height.
But one subtle difference between the shoes is that the Alphafly has a lower 4mm heel to toe drop compared to the 8mm of the Vaporfly.
While this difference may initially not seem too much of an issue in shoes with so much cushioning under the foot, many athletes that have worn both seem to be favouring the choice of Bekele.
I’ve noticed at the few races I’ve seen in recent months that athletes are going more with the Vaporfly over Alphafly. Personally I think the Alphafly feels a little bulky in the forefoot and it certainly needs more training miles in it to get used to it. Of course, that’s not an issue for Kipchoge, but for most runners, at £260 a pair, they want to keep them for race day.
Perhaps with more of a track background, Bekele prefers a little less shoe under his forefoot, if that could be said of these shoes.
On the general question of the increased use in such footwear, Kipchoge quite eloquently says: “We must all accept technology and move on.”
Let’s hope the shoes don’t detract too much on Sunday and above all, we witness an epic duel between many of the world’s top marathon runners.
» See the October 1 relaunch issue of AW magazine for more on the London Marathon