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The minimalist shoe market.

Despite what many of the critics of minimalist shoes are saying, the market for these shoes is continuing to grow. Virtually every running shoe company has jumped on board and is creating their version of a minimalist or barefoot running shoe. Even ASICS has a version known as the ASICS Gel Neo 33.  If you walk into any specialty running shoe store you will undoubtedly see the displays of minimalist or lightweight running shoes. Vibram FiveFingers may have started this, but its not just the five toed glove shoes that you see now. The average heel height of all running shoes has decreased from 14mm to 10mm over the past several years. Just yesterday I received my catalog from Roadrunner Sports in the mail and the vast majority of shoes listed in the shoe section has either the logo barefoot ride or minimalist ride marked next to it.

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What exactly is happening? One has to realize that with a paradigm change, we cannot see an entire society of runners immediately switch their shoes, especially if what they are currently wearing is working for them. Secondly, it will take time for the studies to be published that shows this type of running is safe and that the shoe isn’t as important as we once thought it was. And lastly is the financial interest of the shoe companies. Even if a study is published tomorrow touting the health benefits changing your form from running in a minimalist shoe, these companies still have 95% or more of their products in lines of shoes other then minimalist shoes. The business model to switch would simply not work.

So rather then see a direct overhaul of the shoes being produced to that of a minimalist shoe, we will continue to see a gradual transition to more flexible shoes that allows a runner to modify their gait to that of a more natural gait. Remember, it’s not the shoe, its the way you run. A shoe should allow you to run, not enable you to run.


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