Before the 1970s, athletic shoes had thin soles, no support, and zero heel drop. (1) Then, Nike popularized running shoes and an industry was born. (2) Dazzled by multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, we've become convinced that our feet need lots of support and cushioning to run effectively. But the belief that the modern running shoe is superior to your own two feet is slowly changing with the popularity of minimalist running shoes.
What is a Minimalist Running Shoe?
What started as a weird fad has exploded into a movement now backed by solid science. (3) As a result of this growing popularity, minimalist running shoes have suddenly been embraced by many everyday runners.
To give you an idea of how popular minimalist running has become, Vibram (the company who created the modern minimalist running shoe) had to ramp up production of their FiveFingers “toe shoes” just to keep up with demand (from 2006 to 2009, their annual minimalist shoe revenue jumped from $430,000 to $11 million dollars!).
|The Vibram FiveFingers is an example of a minimalist running shoe.|
Because of its rising popularity, other shoe companies are marketing their own minimalist shoes that aren't quite minimalist. To identify a true minimalist shoe, look for the following qualities:
- Minimal heel-to-toe drop (<=4mm).
- Thin sole (3-6mm).
- Little to no support for the foot.
- Large toe box (or individual boxes for each toe).
- Typically light (<7.5 ounces)