Every time each of us steps on a 3G training pitch instead of a mud heap, picks up a carbon fibre golf club, or a tennis racket that is no longer made out of wood, we are benefitting from technological advancement in sport.
Today, we can measure our parkrun achievements on smart watches, our spin class fantasies on mini-computers, or Tour De France stages on screens in our living room, and even book netball, squash or tennis courts on a smartphone before we even get out of bed.
But what are the limits? Who gets to ensure a level playing field? And if the tech is expensive and limited to only a few, how does that square with the notion of sport for all?
In golf, the debate over technology has reached what appears to be a crossroads as sophisticated manufacture of clubs and balls now enable the top stars to regularly drive the ball over 300 yards.
The recent Distance Insight Projects Report by golf’s authorities appears to have convinced them it’s time to act. The suggestion is that skill is now being undermined by the pure power of the technology.
James Thie is Wales’ top middle and long-distance running coach. Among his stable of elite runners, a number are already using the Nike Vaporfly – which remains legal – and was the forerunner to the Alpha Fly, which has been banned.
Both running shoes include a carbon plate inside the sole, plus high-tech foam that provides a bounding effect of springing the runner forwards into his or her next stride.
The Kipchoge Alpha Fly has been banned as it has a sole thicker than 40mm. Only members of Seventies glam rock tribute bands, it seems, can get away with higher platforms than that.
Thie admits he has some concerns about the way tech is shaping running, and possibly distorting current records compared with the past, but is also wary of heavy-handed rules at a time when cool-looking brands have driven a running boom.
He also notes that shoe development plays a big part in athlete welfare through preventing training injuries.
“It’s hard to look at it and say, ‘This is terrible. Let’s go back to the old shoes,’” says Thie, a lecturer in sports coaching and performance at Cardiff Met and former world class 1500m specialist.
“Where do you draw the line on any technology? I worked for a shoe manufacturer for a number of years. Any shoe we wear has some kind of technology in it.
“We have had shoe technology to correct running style for years – people who over-pronate, for instance, wear a structured shoe.
“But the question is how far does the technology develop so that it then becomes unmanageable? There need to be guidelines, as with every sport. What’s the top limit and what’s unfair? We need some sensible boundaries.”
Anyone in any doubt over the benefits of the Nike shoes, should consider the fact that runners using the Vaporfly have taken 31 of 36 top-three finishes in major marathons in the last year.