Karsten Warholm obliterated the world record in the 400m hurdles, while Rai Benjamin finished second

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In the wake of arguably the greatest track race in Olympic history, 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm ignited a row about shoe technology when he called his nearest rival’s super spikes "b——-".

The Norwegian obliterated his own world record by 0.76 seconds to claim gold in an astonishing 45.94 seconds. Rai Benjamin, of the United States, also bettered the old mark by taking silver in 46.17sec, while Brazilian bronze medalist Alison dos Santos clocked a time faster than the previous world record that had stood for 29 years until last month.

Much has been made of the advent of super spikes in recent years, with many people arguing they make today’s fast times incomparable with previous eras. Athletes at these Olympics are also aided by a track that the manufacturers claim is the quickest in history, with greater energy response.

Warholm admitted the super spikes are having an impact on times, but insisted there was a difference between his shoes and those worn by Benjamin.

The winner’s Puma EvoSpeed Future Faster+ shoes were developed in conjunction with the Mercedes Formula One team and contain a carbon-fibre plate to aid with energy transfer.

Warholm says there is a difference between his shoes and those worn by Benjamin


In addition to a carbon-fibre plate, Benjamin’s Nike Air Zoom Maxfly spikes add an air pod underneath the forefoot to provide a bounce effect.

“If you put a trampoline there I think it’s b——-,” said Warholm. “I think it takes credibility away from our sport. I don’t see why you should put anything beneath a sprinting shoe.

“What I can say about the shoes that I’ve been developing in a collaboration between Puma and the Mercedes Formula One team is that we’re trying to make it as credible as it can be.

“Yes, we have the carbon plate but we have tried to make it as thin as possible because that’s the way that I would like to do it.

“Of course, technology will always be there but I also want to keep it down to a level where we can actually compare results. That’s important.”

World Athletics president Seb Coe admitted earlier this year that the governing body should have done more to curb rapidly evolving shoe technology when he took charge in 2015.

Advances were first seen in road-running shoes after the Rio Olympics

Credit: AFP

Advances were first seen in road-running shoes after the Rio Olympics when Nike combined a carbon-fibre plate with vast amounts of hyper-responsive foam – a development that has seen marathon and half-marathon times tumble in recent years.

That same technology was then transferred to track spikes in 2019, with a number of middle- and long-distance records falling in quick succession.

Until January 2020, regulations on the sole thickness of track spikes had only ever existed in the high jump and long jump, with most conventional spikes so thin and lightweight that further limitations were not necessary.

But with shoe companies replicating their carbon-fibre plate and springy foam technology in spikes, World Athletics introduced a maximum legal sole thickness for different events: 20mm for track events up to 400m and 25mm for any longer distance.

Many believe those parameters remain far too forgiving, with Warholm not alone in his unhappiness that Nike have managed to insert an air pod into their leading sprint spikes.