Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why would barefoot runners make the best shoe designers?

Yep, there is a glass of wine in my hand, which is a cue for me to start mumbling incoherently about something or other.

Today, it's a mini-revelation that how barefoot runners would probably make the best shoe designers in the world.

I admit it's a sweeping statement, but in my surreal world it makes sense.

I must first clarify that when I talk about shoe design I am talking about shoes that work and not necessarily shoes that look good.  It's an unfortunate situation that the two aren't necessarily connected.

So why are we the best shoe designers?  Let me explain.

#1  Barefoot runners probably know more about running form than is healthy.  Generally barefoot runners know how to run.  It is a very general rule -- there will always be people who run badly regardless of what they wear on their feet, however on the whole we know the important aspects of running well.  We also know how shoes affect our form and which aspects of shoe design affect our form more than others.  If you want a shoe that is designed for enabling good running form, then we are your team.

#2  Minimalist runners are probably some of the pickiest people on the planet.  Seriously, we ask a lot of our shoes and we are very particular on a number of aspects.  We require good ground-feel, wide toe-boxes, comfortable fit, flexibility and minimal cushioning.  We also know how to identify the above.  We are so in-tune with the responses from our feet that we can immediately tell when something isn't right.  Quite often we don't need hundreds of miles to identify what is wrong with a shoe.  You'll probably find we can tell if a shoe is going to be good or bad by the time we get to the end of the street.

#3   We don't necessarily care what a shoe looks like, we just want it to work.  Forget those fancy swishes you have put on the side to cover the fact you can't design a shoe.  We won't be distracted by your design.   It may work with the masses, but it isn't going to work with us. This is also important for point #4.

#4  We are the 'Mothers' of invention'.  If you produce a shoe that sucks, then we will hack it to pieces until it works.  We don't take it back to the store and whine about the fact it's lousy.  We will pull out our tool-kits and craft-boxes.

We 'think outside of the box' and we will come up with solutions to the problems in your shoes.  The shoes may  not look very pretty after we have finished with them but they will work.  If there isn't a shoe out there that fulfills a need, then by heck, we will make it.

For example:  I made my own winter running shoes out of neoprene aqua booties, shoe-gloo and sand.  I used them extensively for a whole winter and they are still my ideal winter running shoe.  They work because I made shoes that fulfilled the specific needs I wanted.  I didn't add 'bells and whistles'.  The are ugly as sin, but they do the job and they do it well.  I have also been known to take craft knifes, duct tape, cardboard, hair elastics and glue to a shoe to make it work.

#5   We may not care about how a shoe looks but we do have our own sense of style.   Okay, I am biased here but I think as a group we are kind of groovy.  You can tell a barefoot runner in a crowd without even glancing at their feet.  We are not your average runners and if you want unique styling in your shoes, then we are the group you need to talk to.  Forget the black lycra tights and boring race shirts. We are bold, bright, eccentric and punk.  We can make your shoes stand out from the crowd.

#6   We say it as it is.   If you have a sensitive disposition and react badly to criticism then don't talk to us.  If you want the straight up, flat out truth about your shoes then we will tell you and it will probably involve the terms that are more related to the bathroom (or bedroom, if we think your shoe is good).  We are a concise bunch and find it hard to wax lyrical about a product we think needs improving.

#7  Strange as it sounds, people may actually listen to us.  If you are a serious runner and you wanted to know how good a shoe is, who would you talk to?  The guy who's education about running only goes as far as watching "Chariots of fire", or the person who may have spent the last six months reading about running and analysing their running form?  Okay, we don't know all the answers -- in fact we know even less when we have been drinking -- but the fact is that we probably know a little more about what we are talking about than the runner who goes to the box store for their runners.  If we don't know the answers then we probably know those that do.  We aren't experts and many of us don't claim to be, yet if I needed to know how good a shoe is, then I would go to the blog from a minimalist runner.  They know what they are looking for.

There you have it.  My drunken reasons on why we are awesome shoe designers.  Now if any shoe companies want to offer me a job then feel free, however I am not expecting any immediate offers once they have seen my previous designs.  The Smithies were conceived and constructed with the aid of wine and it shows.  Ahh well... that's another career scrapped before it was started.

Now back to my previous vocation of 'General drunken wastrel'!


  1. Hah! This is excellent! And spot on I think... I've been fortunate to review a few minimalist shoes, with a few more review in process.. but if you ask me which shoe is perfect for me.. I can't tell you! I can tell you however which shoes I would mate, and anxiously await their offspring.. or how I would cut and paste several together!

  2. I'm glad you added #5, cause I'm the guy that walked out of Fleet Feet when they told me I shouldn't think about how the shoe looked. My first thought think I'm going out in that ugly shite?!

    Happy Mother's Day Kate!

  3. More braces for your foot instead of conditioning and exercises is what doctors offer you if they really have no other tools or skill sets. Would you go to a chiropractor, PT or doctor, podiatrist if all they offered you for your weak abdominals was a back brace that you had to wear for the rest of your life? Dont they realize how far behind the curve they are with their wimpy recommendations? UGH! Im embarrassed for them to be honest. Here is a Chicago Tribune article about the Naked Shoe, a minimalist shoe I recommended and designed for Converse Japan in 2007. Of course when I proposed it, they were "shocked" :) Now I wonder if they wished they went with it... I did get a call from the product development manager 4 weeks ago but its kinda late now to be on the cutting edge like we would have been back then ugh again!

    Chicago Tribune: “Naked Feel Is In Works For Shoes”, Dr Stoxen Predicts and Recommends Minimalist Shoes To Converse Japan, In 2007