The Future of Minimalist Running: Article from SGB Weekly Discusses Brand Perspectives and Provides Some Shoe Sneak Peaks

New Balance Minimus MR00 v2The most recent issue of SGB Weekly features an interesting article by Thomas Ryan on the future of minimalist running shoes. The article focuses on current trends, and runs through how each manufacturer plans to approach the continually evolving footwear marketplace.

The opening paragraphs give a pretty good flavor of what follows:

With many runners reportedly finding barefoot extreme to be too ‘extreme’ for them, more cushioning and support is being added to ultra-lightweight run models for Spring 2014.

“I think consumers are realizing that minimal or natural footwear is not a silver bullet or the across-the-board solution for all runners,” said Mike Thompson, Pearl Izumi’s product line manager, run footwear. He noted that despite all the minimal discussion, nine out of 10 shoes purchased at specialty run are ‘traditional’ run footwear, with stability still making up almost half that market.

At the same time, Thompson noted, “the days of 12 or 13 ounce stability shoes are dying quickly” in an ongoing push away from gadgets and overbuilt cushioning technologies in midsoles.

The general gist is that the push toward ever lighter footwear will continue, but that stripped down shoes with some cushion seems to be the way of the future for minimalism (though barefoot-style shoes will remain as a niche market). This trend is well evidenced by the shoe on the cover of the issue:

Merrell All Out SGB Weekly

The shoe pictured is part of the Merrell All-Out collection, which will be arriving in Spring 2014. I had the opportunity to see this shoe in person a few weeks ago, and it is a departure from shoes like the Bare Access and Ascend Glove which have a very firm feel underfoot. The All Out shoes are road-trail hybrids that have a much softer midsole, which for me at least should make running long on roads a more comfortable experience. This is one of shoes I’m most excited about for next year.

Other tidbits of note include:

1. Brooks PureProject shoes will get a new sole with a more rounded heel in version 3. The toe-flex groove is being moved to allow the first two toes to function as a unit. I’m skeptical about the value of this since toes 2-5 are flexed by the same muscles, and the big toe is flexed by different muscles – try flexing toes 1 and 2 together independently of the rest, doesn’t work too well, does it … I do like this quote from a Brooks rep:

Kira Harrison, footwear merchandising associate at Brooks Sports Footwear, said the marketplace is clearly seeing a swing back to cushioning. “Lightweight is still relevant in the market, but the conversation is changing,” said Harrison. “It isn’t about one ‘right’ way to run or all about minimal footwear. It is about each individual’s running experience and choosing what’s best for you.”

2. Saucony has mostly updates to existing shoes coming. No mention in the article of the Grid Type A6 – I’ve seen it and it is another of my most anticipated shoes coming down the pipe.

3. Skechers talks about the GoRun Ultra – let’s just say this might be the next shoe I buy for my wife (I have a prototype).

4. Mizuno sees white shoes making a comeback, Pearl Izumi thinks bright color will still be the trend. I side with Pearl.

Pearl Izumi EM Road N4. Karhu is doing some interesting things right now, keep an eye on them.

5. The Pearl Izumi EM Road N looks like a pretty sweet shoe – I’m a fan of racing flats and this looks like a nice addition from another brand that is doing some interesting stuff right now.

Vibram Bikila EVO6. Even Vibram is adding cushion. They’re releasing a more cushioned version (8.5mm) of the Bikila, the VFF Bikila EVO. I wonder how this will affect toe-pocket flex?

7. The upper on the New Balance Minimus Road v2 looks really nice (see photo at to of post). Not sure if the sole or midfoot fit has changed.

8. Prices continue to rise, and K-Swiss in particular has insane pricing for their shoes.

I personally am enjoying the diversity of shoe options that are available right now, and it’s interesting to see how the various manufacturers are approaching the evolving market. I think barefoot-style will (and should) retain a place on store walls, but the immediate future will see more shoes with low drop and some cushion. For me this is a good thing as that’s my sweet spot. How about you, where do you see the future of minimalism headed?

Read the full article at SGB Weekly

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. I guess a lot of people think along the lines of throwing money at a problem, its not their fault its how society is geared up – if somethings broke throw money at it. In the context of minimalism and barefoot, a lot of people obviously saw minimal as the place to be, either through following a trend or in an effort to fix an injury – they brought the shoes expecting a quick fix or new improved vigour but it just doesn’t work like that. 1 year it took me to transition, but then in my case at the time there were no midway options, it was either barefoot, Vibram or the old 6mm drop Inov 8′s. I rotated all three and took it slowly. In the last 4 years of this journey I’ve had some blips, but now everything seems to be settled, my feet and legs have never been stronger. I think a lot of people expect to put on some “barefoots” and be instantly cured of all ills. Its not like that, it takes time to do this properly, but if you’ve just thrown a stack of money at your problem you may feel like you’re owed something?

    Pete I cringed a little when you said the prices are going up on all models. I may have to reevaluate how I feel about the MT110!

    • Pete Larson says:

      I agree. Four years in now for me and I think I can run in just about anything, including barefoot if need be. But it didn’t happen overnight.
      As for prices, I think one of the big issues for minimal is that people have a hard time paying a premium for what is supposedly less shoe. I need to write up a post on best shoes under $100.
      Sent from my iPad

  2. Lindsay Knake says:

    I’ve seen chatter from runners on Twitter about the minimalist movement being over (thank goodness, they say). Sure, “barefoot” shoe was unfortunately marketed as a cure-all in too many cases, which I think reasonable people knew was complete BS. It works for some people, not so much for others. Like basically everything in the world.

    As a runner, I’ve found minimalism is great for me. In the past three years, I’ve transitioned from wearing Brooks Glycerins and custom, hard plastic orthotics to New Balance Minimus 0mm- and 4mm-drop shoes. The 4mm ones are my sweet spot. My favorite shoe. I also love my Vibram FiveFingers Bikilas. I’ve been injury-free for 18 months and have set some solid PRs in longer races.

    So I certainly don’t want to see lighter, more flexible, thin-soled running shoes go anywhere. My hope is shoe companies will keep options available for people like me, even if the shoes aren’t quite as popular as they have been in recent years. This whole movement has been great for the shoe and running industry. It got us thinking and experimenting and now has provided so many great new types of shoes from our big brands and many new brands. Runners have a great selection of shoes no matter what they are looking for. Let’s hope the shoe industry continues to see things that way, and that they are turning a profit so we keep getting the shoes we want, no matter if its Vibrams or Hokas.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I don’t think the minimal movement is over at all, though I do think shoes like the Vibrams have tailed off in a big way. I’m not even sure the sales data support the idea that minimalism is dead, it just depends on how you define minimal. The Nike Free is the number one selling shoe in the US right now…part of that is fashion, but I’m sure part of it is comfort as well.

      —-
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      • Lindsay Knake says:

        I don’t think it’s over, either, judging by shoes I see other runners wearing a races. Lots of lighter shoes, even if they are fairly well cushioned, such as the Brooks Pure Project.

  3. bob baks says:

    Seeing your comment about toe pocket flex reminded me that I’m going to try my Bikilas again. I realized the pain I was feeling might be from a plantar wart that was slowly developing. I know. Gross.

    BTW, wore my GPS and ran smart in a marathon today. 3:48. Beyond stoked.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Congrats!

      Sent from my iPad

      • bob baks says:

        Thanks. I ran in the Bikilas this morning for 5.5 miles. No pain in that spot. The wart has started going away, so that might have been the problem. I’m thinking about wearing the Vibrams or the Samsons or Adams in a 5k next weekend just for fun. Have you ever worn minimalist footwear in a race? I’m hoping I won’t be too much slower.

        • Pete Larson says:

          I ran a 5k in Vibrams once, ran pretty close to my usual time but strained something in my foot in the process

          • bob baks says:

            Well, another 5 and a half miles in the Bikilas in the mid-day heat. Still seem to feel pretty good. No pain. Springy legs. Too bad the minimalist trend is over.

  4. packrats999 says:

    Can’t Saucony skip the name “Type Asics” for their next racing flat and just go to Type A7?

  5. andy-1967 says:

    I like the look of the Bikila EVO. Even though I prefer less on my foot (and also like to run barefoot) these give me a good option for running my first ultra in Sept 2014 – I doubt if i’ll be ready to run 50miles in my KSO’s/Bikila’s or Aqua’s in a years time – so the Bikila EVO looks inviting

    – one problem I could foresee with running a 50miler next year was my wide feet (which are 4E); where was I going to find a wide minimalist shoe – with a little padding, one on a par with the vivobarefoot Aqua? New balance looked like my only option. Well because the VFF have always fitted me nicely the EVO could be more viable for me – just hope the sole is flexible and the toes

    Andy from
    http://www.myrunningtips.com

  6. Cody R. says:

    i get the feeling that they mean “it’s not for everyone” in…..how do I say this? They’re still using the excuse of everyone being different just because….sure, barefoot doesn’t work for everyone, but not in the way they mean it

    should be because of various time in structured footwear messing up the development longer than others

    but it doesn’t come off that way to me…idk

    • Pete Larson says:

      I think manufacturers are trying to wrestle the narrative back away from runners, not sure that’s a good thing and not sure some of their reasoning is very sound.
      Sent from my iPad

      • Robert Osfield says:

        Totally agree. I feel about some manufactures are trying to distort perceptions of what runners need and want to better fit what they want to sell us this year.

        I don’t see any signs of the minimalist movement having top out. You see more and more runners here wearing minimal shoes and doing well. Manufacturers are making more and more shoes that fill the gaps in the market, more and more choices that just want there a year ago. This is great.

  7. RichFrantz says:

    “nine out of 10 shoes purchased at specialty run are
    ‘traditional’ run footwear, with stability still making up almost half that
    market.”
    But is that a function of consumer desires, instore availability/selection choices, or sales person influence?
    And how many shoes are purchased outside the realm of the specialty running stores? I get my stuff online exclusively.

    • this was the first question that entered my mind. friend of mine wanted to buy a pair of gobionics so she went to the sports authority (i know i know, not really minimal and not a specialty store but…). the sales guy refused to get her a pair to try on. Instead he kept pushing a pair of asics claiming it was a “much better shoe”.

      after saying no several times, he presented a laundry of other brands. he managed to convince her to try on a pair of pureflows, which she ended up buying. she didn’t end up trying a pair of the skechers.

      • Pete Larson says:

        A big issue at retail stores is that profit margins are higher on more expensive shoes, so there is incentive for a retailer to push a more expensive shoe. It’s also why you see insole pushed at stores – easy profit to sell someone something you can make them think they need. I think this is one of the reasons why Skechers has a tough time cracking specialty retail (in addition to their reputation for fashion and blinking kids shoes). Cheap shoes don’t bring as much profit per pair as a more expensive shoe. If you figure a 40-50% profit margin, there’s a big difference between a shoe selling at $80 and one selling at $130.
        Sent from my iPad

  8. Tim Takach says:

    I know you have talked about this before, but I haven’t seen anything recently (although i may have missed it). What kinds of shoes are best to wear around when not running? (zero drop, a little cushion, and don’t look completely out of place professionally…)

  9. Oscar Roig says:

    I’m seeing the trend on more minimal shoes that maintain a “cushion” but I’m wondering what’s lefts for those of us who still like the 0 drop (I can’t stand any drop right now) and want something minimal.

    I’ve been running everything (trails and asphalt) on the NB MT00 and I haven’t seen any shoe that matches the feel and the price (waiting for a v2). Now I want to buy the Merrell Vapor Glove but mainly because I can find it for 70€ (not very expensive) and also because there aren’t any more options with that minimal feel

  10. ArtistInNature says:

    I’m a 50 year old female runner and bodybuilder (so I lug muscle around on top), and all my running is on fire roads. After several years of ramping up my weekly mileage and running in Kinvaras, Peregrine, Mach 11, Puregrits, etc. I have fixed problems that plagued me before I transitioned to a midfoot strike, like knee pain, but find that other pains have taken their place and moved around. I’m dealing with PF right now, f’rinstance, and so I tape my foot and lace on Kinvaras. I’ve discovered that cushion is nice, and seems to help with pain…I’d even like something flattish or low drop, but with more cushion than the K3s.

    ….basically, a long-winded way of saying I’m glad to see ever more diversity in running-shoe options.

  11. Cody R. says:

    also, certain brands matter, people wear certain brands just because it’s that brand (like nike)

  12. Blaise Dubois says:

    Nice post Pete.

    I post a comment on that topics some month ago in our blog. http://www.therunningclinic.ca
    I’m worry how much companies control what we have (general population) on our feet. I think more that 75% of runners don’t really make a choice.

    My conclusion of the post was hard and not politically correct : Finally, a total of 60 percent of participants knew about minimalist shoes but had never tried any out because salespeople were simply not used to proposing them. While it is still unknown why, the reasons vary from one storekeeper to another: philosophical issues, unconscious marketing influences, profit-related motives? Would this low promotion level on the part of retailers be the main reason why minimalist shoe sales growth percentages have been slowing down? Could this be the work of companies successfully tricking us into believing that such shoes are not good for the body? I think the future of the running shoe is in the hands of retailer.

  13. Andrew Boyce says:

    Have you ever ran in the Nike Flex Runs? They are a different version of the Nike Free (about $80). I recently got a pair and I was wondering your opinions on longer distance runs?

  14. The New Feelmax Footwear line of minimalist running shoes are spectacular. I love them on my feet. You can find them available at http://www.giftsfromfinland.com They have the full line of Feelmax’s 2009 Collection and the great compliment to my new Feelmax shoes is the Feelmax Sport Toe Socks. Check them out as I am sure you will love them as much as I do.

  15. Christian Eriksson says:

    Looking forward to the updated MR00′s – nice colors as well!
    I say, any idea when they will be released? Autumn perchance?

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