Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Minimal Fad: Confessions of a Torchbearer

First, Nitmos made the comment. Then, Runners' World reported the sharp decline in sales. Finally, the nerds at The Science of Sport wrote a lengthy piece on whether it was just a fad. Is it true? Was barefoot running and minimalist shoes soooo last year?

In referencing the Runners' World news brief, the Scientists noted that the "lasting legacy" of the barefoot/minimalist movement was the development of conventional shoes that are lighter and lower to the ground than previous models.

"[The 'barefoot bubble'] has driven the realization that the bulky, heavy and excessively cushioned shoes were not necessary and probably didn't do what they purported to," writes Ross Tucker, of The Science of Sport website. "The shoe industry as a whole has adjusted its paradigm, and that is certainly a good thing, in general."

While sales might be down, the benefit to those who still ascribe to a "less is more" approach to running footwear is that Big Shoe now has options that suit their needs. Companies like Merrell and New Balance have created entire lines of minimal running shoes that run the gamut from extra-thin and lightweight shoes without a heel drop to incrementally thicker options with slightly raised heels.

Another common theme among barefoot/minimalist runners was the idea that runners don't need to change out their shoes every 300 to 500 miles, a figure that was conjured up to sell more shoes. While these runners may not provide big sales, they will be more loyal to companies that provide them the type of footwear they desire.

The biggest "win" for the barefoot/minimalist camp was more attention paid to running form. It's not the shoes, or lack thereof, but how you land. This idea has led to a multitude of academic studies over the last couple years to figure out how runners can better avoid injury.

After experimenting with a wide variety of running footwear over the last four years, I finally settled on two pairs of shoes that fit my 3F criteria, while incorporating barefoot runs 10 to 20 percent of the time. While the proselytizing has largely died out, my preference for barefoot/minimalist running has not.

Nitmos' implication of my carrying a torch for some long forgotten band was more on the nose than he may have realized, though. You're talking about a guy who prefers music that was last popular during the 1920s and '30s. Jonas Brothers forever? More like Skillet Lickers forever!

Maybe someday I'll be considered a barefoot/minimalist running revivalist.


C said...

I think we've been wrong all these years. You're not a hippie, you're a hipster. So, how many Apple products do you own?

Turi Becker said...

Ten years from now, skinny jeans, crappy beards and fivefingers are going to be a retro Halloween costume. Put away an outfit now...

misszippy said...

You're way ahead of your time is all. And I am staying with my less is more approach no matter what the stats say.

Nitmos said...

Any post inspired and based around one of my comments is an auto-win for your blog. Any time I can be of service.

Btw, I hear cargo shorts are the new "in" racing pant.