Possible ban on Nike’s super shoe sees Asics, Mizuno shares jump

Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge ran the first sub-2 hour marathon while wearing the shoes. (Facebook pic/Nike)

TOKYO: Reports that Nike Inc’s acclaimed running shoes may be banned from competition by World Athletics might displease elite athletes, but could be good news for rival Japanese footwear makers.

Shares in Japanese sneaker maker Asics Corp surged as much as 8% in Tokyo Thursday, after the Times and others reported that World Athletics was mulling a ban for Nike’s Vaporfly shoes in professional competition. Mizuno Corp, another Japanese maker of running equipment, rose as much as 1.6%.

Nike’s Vaporfly Next% sneakers have been hailed as a “super shoe” and helped elite runners shatter records since their release. Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge ran the first sub-2 hour marathon while wearing the shoes, while Brigid Kosgei used them to break the women’s marathon record.

The sneakers have also gained popularity with Japanese athletes, which sent shares in Asics tumbling at the start of this year after the Vaporflys played a starring role in one of the country’s most-watched road races.

But the shoes have also attracted controversy for their thick soles that incorporate carbon-fibre plates, said to give runners more bounce.

The Times reported that Vaporfly sneakers may be banned from competition when World Athletics introduces new rules on running shoes, though that was disputed by a report in the Guardian saying the issue remains under discussion, with a wholesale ban unlikely. The international governing body has yet to announce the details.

“The market had concerns that Nike could take Asics’s share of the athletic sneakers segment, absent a ban,” said Masami Nakanaga, an analyst at Iwai Cosmo Securities Co in Tokyo.

“If the reports are correct, the concerns over sales, as well as the advertising impact that comes from in-competition use, would be relieved.”

But while the reports are supporting Asics shares today, a prohibition would bring more attention to Nike’s footwear, which could serve as good advertising for the US maker, said Tim Morse, an analyst at Asymmetric Advisors in Singapore.

“It could be a Pyrrhic victory for Asics,” Morse said.