Running shoe great leap backwards

Some of the earliest posts here we about the way we dress, and how some of our clothes are more fashionable than they are functional. There is a new recent example which makes this a much more interesting debate – that of the running shoe.

Shoes are in an interesting spot because they seem to have a concentration of import for both the fashion and function interests. Shoes are probably one of the most functional things that we wear. Particularly athletic shoes can even lay claim to bio-mechanical objectivity to say that one is better than another.

At the same time shoes are still an article of clothing in the fashion industry. The curious nature of this business is that the clothes and equipment from last year are really not that different from the ones this year. Yet somehow the stores and brands must convince everybody that they must have the new “style” and that anything from two years ago would not be fit to touch the ground beneath your feet.

Over the past year though a new type of running shoe has been emerging. The barefoot craze which was previously banished as a lunatic fringe – has found a way to access the mainstream. The tough rubber, interdigitated sock by Vibram is actually catching on.

There are several accounts emerging over the past year as the movement grows:

This return to basics and low padding running shoes touches off an interesting debate and gives cause for retrospect on the entire sneaker industry. The modern running shoe seems to have emerged only a few decades ago and over that time has increased the amount of cushioning and control steadily.

The question of “what you really need in a running shoe” has both sides claiming fewer injuries. How can this be? You used to need an expert to tell you if you pronate or supinate, if you need a stability shoe or whatnot. Now the proposed solution from the barefooters is “just fix your running form by wearing something (nothing) that won’t let you run incorrectly”.

So is barefoot running only for the “biomechanically gifted” or is it really just a matter of training your body to recall its early hominid evolutionary training? After coming off of a year of chronic calf and Achilles injuries, I’m going to try to find out.

After my first run – i remembered a curious george story from when I was little. Curious George left from some hight over a sidewalk in the city. He was injured on the asphalt because it was not as soft as the jungle earth that he was used to.

Regardless – I do enjoy the trend towards simplicity, and whatever gets people excited about running.


About livingthememe

engineer and armchair philosopher
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