Running shoes; from minimalist to maximalist. Was the minimalist craze the right idea or did it have an untimely demise?

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Running shoes; from minimalist to maximalist. Was the minimalist craze the right idea or did it have an untimely demise?

Several years ago, Vibram came out with the 5 fingers design after the book Born to Run came out which advocated the benefits of minimal or barefoot running. The shoe makers tried everything to get us to buy their different shoes, with the different heel heights, since we were supposed to run better with less shoe.

Now we are in the maximalist craze, with huge shoes that are supposed to help us run better. Which is actually better for us?

Depending on who you speak with, some will tell you that the minimalist craze was bad for us, and there were too many injuries. On the other hand, can increased dispersion of ground forces prevent injuries? That of course depends on our unique body mechanics, how we adapt to them and how we run, which impacts the forces we feel when we impact the ground.

In my experience, there is no my way or the highway and some people did well with minimalist, while others like myself didn’t. Perhaps, since we are not widgets that wear shoes, we need variety and a better understanding of which runners and body styles would do best with which type of shoe. Perhaps, if the shoe industry were to study the characteristics of different body styles in different types of shoes, they can be more accurate in their designs and we can finally find the ideal shoes for us, the runners.

Check out this interesting article about why the minimalist craze went flat.


It was exhilarating and vindicating to see the increase in the selection of lightweight, flat, thin, flexible shoes several years ago. But now the minimalist utopia is threatened by market forces. I looked at the 2014 survey Peter Larson had on -two of the top 20 shoes were Hoka models: Clifton and Huaka. Although both had small heel-to-toe offsets, 2mm and 4mm, respectively, they were quite thick and stiff. Two other shoes were Altra models, the Oneand the Paradigm, which were “zero drop,” but also featured very thick midsoles. All four of these models would be described as “maximalist,” a new category that was created in the last two years, and one which supposedly combines the positive characteristics of traditional running shoes and minimal shoes.

What happened with runners that made “fat and flat” shoes so popular, and in the process, push aside minimalism like some beefy schoolyard bully? In the beginning, ultra runners flocked to Hokas, feeling that extra cushioning was needed to save their legs. Then injured runners gravitated to the plumpish shoes. Old aches and pains seemed to go away. There’s a recent article in the New York Times that gives a balanced appraisal of the current cushion-is-king state of affairs: maximalism is in, minimalism is out. (And barefoot remains an outlier.)

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