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Great Commentary on the Running Shoe Debate by Brian Martin of Running Technique Tips


Friend and fellow running blogger Brian Martin over at Running Technique Tips just posted a very thoughtful commentary on the current state of the running shoe debate (with the context being an upcoming debate he will be attending in Melbourne). Brian rightly laments that some of the debates that have been going on of late are too academic and combative, and points out how this can be a major turnoff to a runner who simply wants to figure out how to run without getting hurt. I don’t want to steal Brian’s thunder by giving away too much here, but I found the following passage from his post to be excellent:

“The minimalist movement hasn’t done itself any favors by some companies and distributors getting into the mainstream media with simplistic messages about the benefits of barefoot shoes. Sure there are benefits to be had, but these messages don’t come with a warning label or point out that it’s not all about the shoe. Equally some running shoe manufacturers need to listen a bit more to what’s working in the real world and spend less time and energy on trying to polarize opinion. There’s plenty of profitable and helpful middle ground for those with a bit of vision to make the most of it.”

His conclusion is also right on the money:

“I’m looking forward to the debate, but I’m hoping that in the future these types of discussions will center far more on the runner and that researchers will move away from trying to prove narrow interventions. A focus on observing what happens when a range of measure are used by runners to improve their fortunes would be far more helpful. Yes you might never get that funny professor’s hat or find the running silver bullet, but you’ll be far more likely to help runners and running coaches develop better approaches to injury prevention, recovery and training.”

Well said Brian!

To read the full post, head on over to Running Technique Tips (and while you’re there, his book is worth a look if you enjoy reading about running form…)

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.


  1. Pete,

    You and Brian are right, but why would a SHOE COMPANY want to focus on the RUNNER and his or her technique and biomechanics?  Shoe companies make money by selling shoes, not telling runners how to run better.  These two differences tend to converge only when a shoe company can tell a runner that he or she needs to buy a new pair of shoes in order to improve or correct his or her running technique so that he or she can run faster/longer/injury free.

    Sure, Merrell, Vivobarefoot, Altra and Newton (and maybe others) have helpful information about how a runner can or should transition to more “minimalist shoes” (whatever that means — there’s a world of difference between a pair of Vivos and a pair of Newtons), but that is an adjunct to their efforts to sell more shoes.

    Most runners get their information from Runner’s World, which makes money by selling ads to shoe companies.  Outside of academics (and hat’s off to you and your colleagues) and elite coaching, there is no natural voice to change the dialogue from “gear fixes” to “form fixes.”  Since 99.9% of runners do not have access to elite coaching, that leaves you and your colleagues to beat the drum.  Thank goodness for the internet.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Pete Larson says:


      I agree with you – discussion about shoes will always trump discussion about form, strengthening etc (just look at my most popular posts in the left sidebar!). At the same time, academics often are so focused on scientific minutiae that they forget the big picture – what does a given study mean for the individual runner. I think what Brian is suggesting is to broaden the middle ground between a sometimes a narrow scientific focus and the world of practical application. This is what I try my best to do, as does Brian. Others who do this include people like Alex Hutchinson and Steve Magness. It’s taking info from the scientific world and PR from the shoe companies and trying to boil it down to what is most important and practical to helping people run well and injury free.


  2. Once again, you are a genius. Too many bitting comments about who’s better and why. I started to look at the minimalist movement because I didn’t want to have a new knee in a few years.

  3. Dawgblood says:

    Nice blog and nice article, but I do have to remind you that “polarization” sells stuff.  The shoe companies (especially the large publically traded companies) love polarization, because it’s free publicity for ALL their shoes.  And shoe companies sponsor a lot of these “studies.”

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