an editorial by Kazuhiro Masuda
Nike's recent generations of thick-soled platform racing shoes swept the 2020 Tokyo Marathon, with 28 out of the top 30 placing men wearing them, including international entrants. Of these, 9 including new Japanese national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike) wear wearing the new Air Zoom Alphafly Next% model with a 3.95 cm thick sole complying with new regulations from World Athletics. With 10 Japanese men running under 2:08 in a single race for the first time in history, all 10 were wearing models of the platform shoes.
Despite a mix in choice of models, the shoes dominated the market in the race. One after another, thick green, black, pink, and green and orange shoes crossed the finish line in Marunouchi, Tokyo. From winner Birhanu Legese to 30th-place Shuho Dairokuno, 28 men had the Nike shoes on their feet. The other 2 were wearing Adidas and Asics. Wearing the latest model of the Nike shoes for his latest national record, Osako said, "Every race feels different afterwards. It's hard to say how much of a role the shoes played, but being able to take advantage of Nike's latest technology is a strength for us."
On Jan. 31 World Athletics established a new rule setting the maximum shoe sole thickness at 4 cm. On Feb. 5 Nike unveiled its new model with a thickness of 3.95 cm. With the shoes going on sale in Japan, the Tokyo marathon represented their Japanese debut.
Switching from the previous model to the new one for this race and finishing 27th in 2:09:41, Kenji Yamamoto (Mazda) commented, "My left foot starting hurting at 10 km, and something felt wrong. In the second half my legs felt like sticks, but I still felt like I was getting a lot of assistance. Somehow I still managed to squeeze out a sub-2:10. The rebound in these is amazing." Comparing them to the previous model he wore at last fall's MGC Olympic trials race he said, "The softness is completely different. When you step in them it feels like you're on top of a balance ball, and you get a real feeling of rebound."
There's no denying that the hard work and dedication that athletes put in on a day-to-day basis plays the biggest role in their success, but it's equally true that the last few generations of these platform shoes were in the director's seat of a race that saw an unprecedented 10 Japanese men run under 2:08.
Translator's note: For context, prior to Tokyo this year the record for sub-2:10 performances in a single marathon was 17. The same number went sub-2:08 in Tokyo yesterday, with 28 total going under 2:10.
translated by Brett Larner