Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The start of the avalanche?

“… It was reported that prescribing motion control shoes incorrectly, without proper justification or rationale, is potentially dangerous”

The sentence above seems fairly innocuous, until that is, you consider the source of the quote.  This was from an article titled, “The Science and History behind theRunning Shoe” by Dr. Reed Ferber.  It was also in the free “Running Room” magazine.


Okay, for some, if not most people, that will probably justify a virtual tumbleweed rolling across a virtual desert.  To some however, this is the sign of the beginning of the avalanche and acceptance of barefoot and minimalist running.  Yep, it might seem as if I am grasping at straws here.  Work with me on this.

The article itself was not “Barefoot or Minimal is great”, and neither did I expect it to be so.  However, it didn’t shout, “Buy big supportive shoes” either.  This is where I became interested.

“The Running Room” is, if you aren’t already aware, a running shoe store.  But in my experience (and in the experience of other minimal and barefoot runners) a shoe store which appears to be very anti-barefoot.  I will even go to say, anti-minimal shoe. 

My local Running Room fills me with dread.  I go in on very rare occasions and I ensure that I know precisely what I want and I try to get in and out as quickly as possible.  My un-orthodox training schedule, my haphazard attitude to racing and my barefoot/minimalist running stance has made conversations with the staff strained and uncomfortable.  They have been in my experience a very “conservative” store.  A store that seems unwilling to look at change.  A store that takes the art of running and in some cases itself, too seriously.  (Hence the reason we don’t really get along, because… well, I don’t!)

Then I saw this article.  The article is written by a Doctor who is investigating running injuries at the University of Calgary,.  He starts by talking about the history of the running shoe; providing dates which highlight the recent invention of the modern running shoe.  He writes how the term “over-pronation” was only coined in 1978.  1978!  I am older than the aliment that has created the motion-controlled shoe. He cites in his article relevant studies that show that incorrectly perscribed shoes cause damage.  At least half the article indicates that running shoes do not necessarily prevent injuries.  That running in the wrong shoe causes issues.

He quotes:
“Considering the complexity of running injuries, one must assume that changing footwear, or even eliminating shoes altogether, cannot eliminate the potential for –or serve- as the only treatment for a running-related injury”

What? Running Room? Shoes will not prevent running injuries?  I know it seems like I am making a big deal about this.  I mean the article doesn’t say “DITCH YOUR SHOES”, but coming from a company that has had over 25 years building a reputation cemented around the latest model of motion controlled running shoe, this I think is a significant change.

I think you will find a lot of Barefoot and Minimal runners out there –especially those who have been around the block, in pretty much most senses of the phrase- will not claim going barefoot will solve your running injuries either.  Okay, going barefoot helped me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I advocate everyone ditch their shoes immediately and embrace the mud.  Barefoot and Minimalist runners as a whole take the view:
“…the one thing research from the past decade clearly demonstrates is that you run best when you are in a comfortable shoe.”

Running Room and the minimalist community on the same page?  I am waiting for the correlating horsemen on winged horses and random debris to start falling from the sky.

So to me this insignificant one page article hidden in the midst of shoe advertising, sent in a free magazine from a shoe company that has in my experience been anti-barefoot/minimalist and very Pro supportive shoe, is huge.

This could be the start of the avalanche…


  1. I agree with you Katie. There is a paradigm shift taking place. Sure, podiatrists aren't throwing away their orthotics and opening up barefoot clinincs, but they are starting to realize that maybe all this cushioning isn't necessary. I'm ecstatic when I go into a running store, and people recognize what's on my feet/or not on them, and immediately want to ask me questions. Only one time did I find someone that was conservative like the store you're mentioning. I'm even more excited when I go in looking at a pair of minimal shoes, and they explain to me, or at least try to, explain to me what the benefits of minimalism are. I'm not asking that people agree with you or me or the rest of our crazy community, but that they at least respect us enough to acknowledge us as a legitimate part of the community. I believe that it's going to take the major names making a very clear statement about us in regards as a consumer base in order for that to happen. By major statement I don't mean a haphazard line of footwear that was quickly thrown together to make a killing on this new barefoot market. I'm talking about companies like Nike/Asics/Saucony/Adidas etc making huge strides to make the BEST minimalist shoe out there. Merrell has done it, silently cursing my wide feet at the moment, and I think someone in the big names is going to have to make something to challenge Merrell before running stores will really consider us as part of the running community and not crazy outlyers.

    Rant/incessant rambling over.


  2. I'll believe it when their semi-annual catalogue stops featuring photos of smiling runners performing some of the worst examples of heel striking I've ever laid eyes on.