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Current State of Running and Minimalism: Where Are We Now and What Will the Future Look Like?

Posted on 14 November 2012

The following essay on where matters stand today with minimalism  –and what will they look like tomorrow — was penned by Blaise Dubois. It originally appeared on his lively, informative, and tell-it-like-it-is bilingual blog on running and injuries. Many of the old guard in the footwear, medical and running biz who are wedded to the recent PECH past, and whose outmoded beliefs about “healthy footwear” revolve around wishful thinking, often take umbrage with a game-changing concept so simple as “less shoe is more.”  And that a less bulky shoe is better for the runner. To these critics and naysayers, who often express their retrograde views  –often laced with unnecessary vitriol and personal, sophomoric attacks — on various blogs and forums, minimalism is simply a passing fad and that progressive folks like Blaise are only leading runners off a cliff. We strongly think otherwise. Time has clearly shown that running shoes pumped up and bloated on steroids is not the answer for a sport where injuries are still far too high. But sorry, Blaise, runners won’t ever get tired arguing about minimalism either! – Bill Katovsky

Current State of  Running and Minimalism

by Blaise Dubois

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since some characters, organizations and scientists started to awaken popular awareness about modern running shoes. In 2012, where are we at with this new era in the world of running?

The debate surrounding the various types of running shoes available on the market is running out of breath. While running shoe specifications are still a topic of interest, naysayers are slowly coming to their senses as they realize that minimalism is a trend meant to draw increasing attention. The upside of years of confrontation is the resulting progression of a number of concepts along with the changes in practice that ensued. It is undeniable that this has brought about a shift in how we see things now. Scientists, health professionals, specialized retailers, runners and even businesses have shifted their attention to minimalism.

Considering all these changes, where do we stand now in 2012?
Below are a number of findings and observations.

The market
- All companies have jumped on the minimalist wagon. The specifications of their running shoes are now geared towards footwear that is lighter, more flexible, closer to the ground at the heel and simpler in terms of motion control technologies.
- All industry titans now boast a line of minimalist shoes or shoes featuring specifications typical of minimalist footwear.
- Given the new-found reputation of the concept, companies are slowly making it their own in order to keep prices up and claim technological “innovation” in minimalist shoes.
- An increasing number of companies dedicated to minimalism have been created to this day (over 60 entities).
- Market shares for minimalist shoes are skyrocketing and now represent over 10% of the running shoe market in North America (more than a 600% increase in the last two years). Minimalist shoe sales percentages have singlehandedly overshadowed all other types of running shoes combined.
- Europe is just getting into it… with many reluctant opinions.

Reality on the Field
- Practice has evolved and always will. Runners are getting more and more critical as well as knowledgeable. In 2012, health and training professionals are becoming key resources in educating runners on good practices in terms of which shoes to use.
- The majority of specialized retailers still opt for unjustified practices by recommending maximalist running shoes for most beginners and children (get out there and test it for yourself!).
- Many people admit benefits arising from minimalism but pretend to be “moderate minimalists.” They highly promote minimalism as being only a ‘tool.’ (My own opinion: Without being an “extremist minimalist,” I think that many people unjustifiably limit themselves to minimalism advantage. If it is so beneficial, how about using it all the time instead of only 10%, 20% or 50% of the time?)
- Some running magazines and shoe retailers are still promoting a selection based on the shape of the foot, experience (number of kilometers per week) and the weight of runners – obsolete concepts that have been discredited scientifically in a number of cases.
- Several runners used to maximalist shoes get injured due to a hasty transition to minimalism.
- Runners are getting sick and tired of the minimalist debate or, at the very least, discussing it and arguing about it.

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2 Responses to “Current State of Running and Minimalism: Where Are We Now and What Will the Future Look Like?”

  1. stevonne says:

    Hi,I notice everyone (makers) are jumping on the bandwagon.They must be loving it.Less materials and simpler construction must mean lower build costs and yet the price stays high.Win win.Because they love to have a new model with innovation every year, it’s going to be interesting to see how they can reinterpret the brief and stay close to the blueprint. How about a sole that sticks to the foot?

  2. Luke says:

    A sole that sticks to the foot? That’d be the xero connect.
    I’m with you, minimalist shoes are great for the big buck makers, lightweight, thin materials, wear though in no time! Having said that I’d never run in a ‘traditional’ trainer again.


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