San Antonio Running Blog
The Future of Minimalist Running Shoes and the Value of Variety
Brooks Pure Drift This morning I opened my email to find an alert that the newest edition of SGB Weekly magazine had come out and that it would be featuring a few articles by Thomas Ryan on trends in the running market as gleaned from interviews and discussions at The Running Event.
The Running Event is the major annual trade show for the specialty running market, and is attended by brands showing off their newest product offerings, and retailers trying to figure out what’s going to be hot in the coming year. Based on the articles, the future of minimalism was a hot topic at the show, and I thought I’d add some of my own commentary on things that were written in the magazine.
Asics’ Simon Bartold on Minimalism and Running Injuries
The first article in the issue was an interview with Simon Bartold, an international research consultant for Asics. Simon and I have had our disagreements in the past, but I also think we tend to agree on many issues regarding the etiology and management of running injuries. His interview is interesting, and there are things I agree with, and things I don’t.
The first question asked of Bartold was “ HOW DO YOU THINK THE WHOLE BAREFOOT/MINIMALIST TREND IS EVOLVING?” His response: “I actually think it’s dead. I think the big vibe around minimalism and barefoot as it existed 18 months ago has run its course. We’re starting to see a lot of retailers say, ‘We really can’t sell it. Inventories are stacked up. And we can’t find anything to justify it scientifically.’ So it’s going to go back to where it was – what we called racing flats 10 years ago.
WHAT MINIMALIST PRODUCT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? Mostly the zero-drop footwear and the whole talk of it as a main running shoe for the bulk of people. That’s the story we’ve been told. We’ve been told that if you go to a zero-drop running shoe then your gait will change and you’ll be running naturally like a caveman. But I think the concept has a fatal flaw and I believe people have seen through it. It’s taken 3 or 4 years but I think that concept is dead in the water.”
I both agree and disagree with what Simon says here. Sales at the barefoot-style end of the minimalist spectrum have indeed died down (particularly toe shoes like Vibram Fivefingers, though even those retain a very passionate niche following), and as with any hot trend things settle into place after an initial burst of popularity (and one must be careful not to equate minimalism with extreme barefoot-style and toe shoes). If he’s talking only about the idea that zero drop or barefoot-style is best for all people being dead, I agree with him, but I think only a small (albeit vocal) minority of people ever espoused that belief.
The reality is that minimalism and zero drop are far from dead – one need only look at the number of zero drop offerings coming out in early 2013 from top 7 brands like Mizuno (Be, Levitas, Cursoris), Brooks (PureDrift), and Saucony (Virrata) to see that zero drop is alive and well (not to mention that New Balance has a large suite of minimal offerings, Nike has the Free line, and adidas just released their own “adipure” natural running line a few months ago – of the big 7, seems that Asics is the only one not joining the minimal party, though they are testing the waters with the Gel-Lyte). Even small and niche companies are getting into the market with minimal spectrum offerings - Altra has developed a strong following and has a suite of new zero drop shoes coming in the next year, and Merrell continues to add zero drop models to their stable of offerings (would they be doing that if their sales had totally tanked?).
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Runblogger is edited and authored by Peter Larson . Pete is an anatomy professor, writer, and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. He is co-author of the book Tread Lightly . Follow Pete on Twitter , Facebook , Google+ , and via email.
Posted by on 19th February, 2013 | Comments | Trackbacks
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