Running shoes spike controversy at the Olympics

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Track and field events are stealing the spotlight at the Tokyo Olympics, yet the use of some "new and improved" running shoes is causing a stir.

After the record-setting men’s 400-meter hurdles this week, the gold medalist from Norway complained the Nike spikes are hurting the credibility of the sport. The running shoe has certainly evolved over the decades and it is an important tool for competitive runners.

“The technology has definitely changed over time. What they’re looking at is various technologies to help with weight, to help with speed for competition, just to name a few,” said Ellen Brenner-Boutillier, owner of Fleet Feet and YellowJacket Racing.

Brenner-Boutillier said there is a lot more than you might think that goes into the composition of a high-end athletic shoe.

“First and foremost, they have an actual implement that goes into the bottom of the shoe. Secondly, it has a plate on the bottom of the shoe, which is going to help with speed so it’s going to help with the shock absorption. It’s going to propel you even faster as you go off,” Brenner-Boutillier said.

The controversial debate now centers around the advantage the particular shoe offers, with some critics comparing it to running on "springs" or a "trampoline".

“Basically what it comes down to with those shoes. It’s the foam or an element like carbon that’s inside and what it does is it makes it harder so that helps with the response to be able to respond quickly with the foot,” Brenner-Boutillier said.

While proper footwear is a critical element, Brenner-Boutillier says it is just one of the many things the Olympic track athletes have to worry about.

“It’s also down to the engine; the person that’s actually wearing the shoe, and the talent that that person can exhibit. However, I can say that the athletes definitely are looking at footwear as an opportunity to gain seconds to minutes,” Brenner-Boutillier said.

Norwegian track star Karsten Warholm smashed his own world record Monday by three-quarters of a second. Rai Benjamin brought home the silver medal for the U.S. with what also would have been a world record.

For the rest of us, the best advice if you are an avid runner: Get a shoe that fits your style of running and get properly fitted from a shoe store.