Sebastian Coe claimed curbing the development of high-tech footwear would "suffocate innovation" ©Getty Images

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has claimed curbing the development of high-tech footwear would only "suffocate innovation" after a number of world records were broken last year by athletes wearing Nike's new track spikes. 

Sports footwear and apparel giant Nike released the ZoomX Dragonfly and Zoom Victory spikes in 2020, billing the former as the "fastest shoes ever". 

Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei and Ethiopia's Letesenbet Gidey broke the men’s 10,000 metres and the women’s 5,000m world records, respectively, wearing the ZoomX Dragonfly in October. 

Britain's Mo Farah and Sifan Hassan of The Netherlands also broke the men’s and women’s one-hour records wearing high-tech Nike shoes in September in Brussels. 

In an interview with The Guardian, Coe rejected the idea that the footwear was undermining athletics. 

"I don’t think we’ve reached that point where world records are being handed out like confetti," he said.

"And if I go back to the 1930s I still marvel at Rudolf Harbig who ran 1hr 46mins and bits for 800m on a cinder track. 

"And I still marvel at Peter Snell, who ran world records and some significantly sub-1:45s on grass tracks. 

"Meanwhile Derek Clayton ran a world marathon record in shoes that you wouldn’t have gone for a stroll with in your local park.

"At the moment I’m pretty calm about this. 

"And the balance of judgment here is always - and I guess this is a personal instinct of mine as well - that we shouldn’t be in the business of trying to suffocate innovation."

At October's meeting in Valencia, advertised as World Record Day, Cheptegei's time of 26min 11sec surpassed the previous record set by Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele in 2005 by six seconds. 

Gidey obliterated the women’s 5,000m record held by compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba since 2008 by more than four seconds.

Farah beat Haile Gebrselassie’s one-hour record by 45 metres after running 21.33 kilometres, while Hassan ran 18.93km to beat the record set by Ethiopia’s Dire Tune in 2008 by nearly 500m. 

Mo Farah wore high-tech Nike spikes as he broke the men's one-hour world record in September ©Getty Images
Mo Farah wore high-tech Nike spikes as he broke the men's one-hour world record in September ©Getty Images

Despite all four athletes donning Nike shoes to achieve their world records, Coe denied the idea that the American company were enjoying a complete dominance of track footwear. 

"I’m not sitting in fear of that," he said. 

"I remember a period in the mid-2000s where Adidas were the kings of the podium, particularly in distance.

"So these things come in cycles. 

"And there is a built-in dynamic where shoe companies mercifully are still investing a lot of money into the research and development of shoes. 

"And I’m pleased they’re doing that." 

The debate surrounding shoes in athletics was sparked by the Nike Vaporfly, which has been approved to feature at this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo and allegedly gives athletes four per cent more energy efficiency.

Men's marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge added fuel to the fire when he wore a pair of "Alphafly" prototype Nike shoes for his sub-two-hour marathon attempt in October 2019. 

The Kenyan ran an unrecognised 1:59:40 in Vienna.

In April, World Athletics introduced a number of regulations which restricted some types of shoe. 

Road shoes with soles thicker than 40 millimetres, and which contain more than one rigid embedded plate or blade, were deemed ineligible, while spikes were restricted to a sole no thicker than 30mm. 

Last month World Athletics approved the use of development shoes in international competitions, as long as they meet the same technical specifications as all other approved shoes.