Minimalist running shoes tread lightly, more naturally, experts say

Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:02am EST
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By Dorene Intenicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Enthusiasm for minimalist running shoes may have waned since the barefoot running craze that sparked them but fitness experts say the idea of minimalism has left a lighter, flatter, more natural footprint on the running industry, which is a good thing.

Minimalist shoes reached peak sales in the United States at $400 million in 2012, according to sports research firm Sports One Source, but sales declined by 13 percent in the first quarter of 2013. 

“After the minimalist movement, the pendulum swung in the other direction, said Tony Post, Chief Executive Officer and founder of running shoe company Topo Athletic.

“But a lot of nice things came out of it: more natural running, lighter, more naturally-shaped shoes that allow the toes to splay, and a more neutral drop from heel to toe.”

During the boom of barefoot running that followed the publishing of Christopher McDougall’s  best-selling 2009 book “Born to Run,” Post was CEO of the minimalist shoe company Vibram Five Fingers, makers of thin-soled, toe-articulated shoes that were designed to replicate running barefoot.

These days, he said, ergonomic design integrates the lessons learned from the barefoot craze with a natural feel.

“The future is the best of both worlds,” he said. “Minimal shoes didn’t allow enough time for bodies to adapt.”

Post noted that before the barefoot craze nearly all shoes had a 10 to 20 millimeter drop from heel to toe, even though flatter shoes are known to aid posture and alignment.   Continued...