News coverage suggesting 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 sneaker-maker Asics Corp. surged as much as 8 percent Thursday, after The Times and others reported that World Athletics was considering a ban on Nike’s Vaporfly shoes in professional competition. Mizuno Corp., another maker of running equipment, rose as much as 1.6 percent.
Nike’s Vaporfly Next% sneakers have been hailed as a “supershoe,” and have helped elite runners shatter records since their release. Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge ran the first marathon completed in under two hours while wearing the shoes, and Brigid Kosgei used them to break the women’s marathon record.
The sneakers have also gained popularity with Japanese athletes. Shares in Asics were sent tumbling at the start of this year after 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-fiber 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 details.
“The market had concerns that Nike could take Asics’ 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 supported Asics shares Thursday, a prohibition would bring more attention to Nike’s footwear — which could serve as good advertising for the U.S. maker, said Tim Morse, an analyst at Asymmetric Advisors in Singapore.
“It could be a pyrrhic victory for Asics,” Morse said.
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