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Sharing Insights On Minimalist Shoes Worn By Athletes In The London Olympics

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Even a month after the end of the Olympics, I still get questions about the bright yellow shoes I am wearing. People often ask if they are the same kind of shoes from the Olympics this year. My shoes are actually New Balance Minimus sneakers and those that many of the Olympians wore are from the Nike Volt collection.

The Volt series has a total of 16 different shoes categorized by Nike as sprints, distance, field and marathon shoes. The first three categories are for the track and field events, and are spiked. The marathon collection has three shoes designed for distance running: the Flyknit Trainer, the Flyknit Racer and the LunarSpider R3.

Although many refer to these as minimalist shoes, purist minimalist runners may not agree. The shoes still have a significant heel to toe drop.

The Flyknit Trainer has an 11-mm drop and the Flyknit Racer has a 10-mm drop, both of which would be considered closer to a traditional running shoe. The LunarSpider R3 has the lowest drop at 4 mm, making it the closest to a minimalist shoe. However, many have complained that the forefoot is too narrow, unlike the wider toe boxes in shoes like the New Balance Minimus series.

Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, who finished first and second respectively in the 10 k at the 2012 Olympics, were wearing the Nike Zoom Mamba 2 from the distance collection. This shoe basically offers a long distance track spike that has no heel height and a very minimal cushion. You can see still images of Rupp’s form as he demonstrates a forefoot strike pattern throughout all 6.2 miles of his race (see http://biomechanics.byu.edu/footstrikes10krupp.jpg ).

Currently, the Nike Free shoe, although not a member of the Volt collection, is the number one-selling minimalist shoe today. While some still argue it is not truly a minimalist shoe, it has no midfoot support and full sole flexibility to promote a more natural gait.

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