SI Vault
September 23, 1968
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September 23, 1968


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General local sentiment, at any rate, is that it was a dull game.


The new multispike track, shoe in which world records have been bettered four times in three weeks owes its illegality to a catapulted Russian. But maybe it should be illegal anyway. It depends in part on which shoe company you like.

Puma is the company that manufactures the new "brush-traction" shoe, designed especially for a better grip on the new Tartan track surface. Instead of the usual four or six spikes, the new shoe has six rows of small tacklike spikelets across the sole. A size 10, for example, has 68 spikes. The shoe also has comfortable adhesive flaps instead of laces.

But after Russia's Yuriy Styepanov broke the world high-jump record in 1957 by means of a "catapult shoe" with a raised sole, the International Amateur Athletic Foundation made a rule against unusual shoes. The rule limits spikes in the sole to six.

So the new shoe won't be allowed in the Olympics unless the rule is changed; and Vince Matthews' 44.4 400 meters, Lee Evans' 44.0 400 and 1:14.3 600, and John Carlos' 19.7 200 will probably not be allowed as world records.

The Los Angeles representative of Adidas shoes said as much as soon as Carlos' 200 time was announced last week during the final U.S. Olympic track trials at South Lake Tahoe. The representative turned, grim-faced, to a reporter and said, "This record will never be accepted." Puma and Adidas, formed by the two Dassler brothers of Germany some years ago when their partnership split up unamicably, are the fiercest rivals in the sport of track and field.

The Adidas people maintain that the Puma shoe tears up Tartan tracks and that it isn't necessarily responsible for the fast times. Larry James, for example, ran second to Evans in 44.1 wearing standard shoes. Anyway, they say, you can't change the rules this close to the Olympics.

But the Puma people (who began to test the new shoe secretly nine months ago in Zurich and London) point out that the fiber-glass pole was accepted four days before the 1960 Olympics. They contend that their shoe is safer, as well as faster, on Tartan. And most of the Americans who have worn the shoes are clamoring to use them in Mexico.

The IAAF will consider Puma's request for approval of the shoe October 5. Puma is optimistic and has offered to donate the shoes to any runner of any nation for the Olympics. Adidas is suggesting that Puma can keep its shoe.

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