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Responding to Trends: How Nike Maximized the “Minimalist Movement” in Running

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Kevin Kirby, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. BEN-HUR

    BEN-HUR Well-Known Member

    Just my thoughts on the article & "minimalist" running shoes (being I use them & have had a long interest on the topic).

    I always had the impression that it was Nike who first introduced a "minimalist" concept shoe to this later generation (putting aside the shoes of the 60's & 70's... & some racing flats)... to start off this "minimalist" era/movement (i.e. Nike Free 5.0 back in 2004/05). From memory, it is where we first heard that oxymoron phrase - "barefoot running shoe". Despite what the above article says (the Free being excluded in minimalist shoe sales stats) it was Nike who first headed down this path well before Vibram & that now infamous book. That's certainly how Nike marketed the shoe back in 2004/05 & still continues to this day (i.e. particularly with the 3.0)... it is just that we now have more "minimalist" shoes on the market today than the Free range.

    People here already know my views/advocacy for the level to low heel-forefoot pitch midsole running shoe (in fact all shoes). Putting this aside (as it tends to create controversy) it was this "minimalist trend" that did give us this direction - hence providing an option to the traditional 12mm heel pitch running shoe (of which I still struggle to find the logic for). This "minimalist trend" also gave runners the option of running in a more basic shoe (construction) without the controlling elements that some runners simply don't need... shoes that more resembled the fit, feel & ride of a 60's/70's type shoe. This option just wasn't available to us 10 years ago - apart from some racing flats - of which I was training in at the time. The "minimalist" range is a welcome option for those runners who are suited to it... just as are other construction/classification types are suited to runners who require more stability/control (putting aside the more appropriate direction of orthotic therapy for the biomechanically inept).

    Whilst the running shoe market for quite a while had various options for runners requiring varying degrees of stability/control/cushioning via the three basic classification types of Neutral/cushioning/curved to semi-curved last; Support/semi-curved last; Control/straight last (this is just a generalised description within the running shoe industry - at least in Australia)... there wasn't much of an option (apart from some racing flats) for runners requiring/wanting less - footwear that more suited their physiology/biomechanics. These (dare I say) are probably more the "born to run" type runners... a reasonably small percentage of the population who move efficiently... & this is where the problems start...

    Whilst I certainly welcome this "minimalist trend" as it suits me personally (& my views on midsole/sole pitch) – yet once again a particular shoe concept has been erroneously marketed to the masses (regardless of the many variances)... by those who have limited knowledge on physiology/biomechanics (i.e. journalists) to those who also have limited (to no) knowledge of physiology/biomechanics (i.e. show pony Bill). This has been done via various methods i.e. an inspiring fanciful yarn involving a mystical tribe of ultra-runners & pseudoscientific speculation on man's running origins (using the "hey if they did it, so can you" type reasoning). Hence emotionally inspiring runners not biomechanically suited to remove their accustomed traditional trainers as well as the non-runners to just start running minimalist (or with no shoes at all). It certainly appears that some within the "barefoot movement" may have been enthusiastically ambitious, however, may also appear to be more fascinated with fame & fortune than with serious science & performance. The claims made by the cardinal exponents of the "barefoot brigade" may have given rise to a new era in running: one of smoke & mirrors, in which style & individuality triumphs over substance, science, logic & reasoning. Hence, despite adaptation periods (adequate or not) - injuries were bound to arise... & they certainly have (mainly the result of emotion, bias & poor information).

    I think this "minimalist trend" is here to stay (& so it should)... but it will weed out those who are suited to this type of footwear & those who are not... it will weed out those who listen to educated opinion (from the likes of Podiatrists) & those who want to learn by their own choices... it will weed out those who acknowledge & learn from their body & those who ignore it. Minimalist shoes sales will drop (& they have) to reflect the minimal percentage of the population suited to running in such minimalist foot attire... & I still relegate true bare foot running (no shoes) to soft surfaces (& primarily for training purposes). However, when all is said & done (from either side of the 'debate')... the individual’s feet will always have the last say... & despite what some disgruntled individuals say - Podiatrists will always have a role to play in this area, whether it be via injury or education means... this so called "enlightenment" has actually provided us with more work... within the clinic & theoretically (i.e. review/expand past theories).
  2. Ray Anthony

    Ray Anthony Active Member

    ". . .hence providing an option to the traditional 12mm heel pitch running shoe (of which I still struggle to find the logic for)"

    Back in the 1970s the logic was straight forward: In The Running Shoe Book (1980) [1], Cavanagh cited the 1971 results of Runner's World magazine's first reader's survey of injuries. A total of 800 runners reported the types of major (defined as requiring a complete cessation from running) foot and leg injuries they'd sustained. The five most common injuries were:

    1. Knee injury (17.9%)
    2. Achilles Tendon injury (14%)
    3. Shin Splints (10.6%)
    4. Arch injury (6.9%)
    5. Ankle injury (6.4%)

    Cavanagh pointed out that the shoes used by runners between 1971-1973 were "heavy, thin under the forepart, lacking in shock absorption, and provided a relatively small differential in height between the heel and forefoot." Cavanagh said the second most popular shoe in 1971 was the Adidas SL (Super Light) 72, designed for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. [Kevin, I bet you had a pair of these!] The shoe weighed over 12-ounces and had a gum-rubber sole with little to no midsole or heel wedge. Adidas reintroduced an exact replica of this shoe just recently!

    Cavanagh also noted how injury patterns had changed throughout the 70s-- a time when running shoe design experienced some dramatic changes. He noted that within the span of ten years, Achilles tendon injuries became much less common (because, reacting to the surveys, the running shoe companies began to incorporate a wedge beneath the heel, he suggests), whereas knee injuries, shin splints, heel spur syndrome, and stress fractures of the tibia and fibula became considerably more common.

    Back in the 1970s, based on the first few surveys of running injuries, running shoe companies began to incorporate a wedge between the outsole and midsole, which took Achilles tendonitis out of the list of top 5 running injuries.


    Ray Anthony

    1. Cavanagh PR. The Running Shoe Book. Mountain View (CA): Anderson World; 1980
  3. BEN-HUR

    BEN-HUR Well-Known Member

    Yes, thanks for that Ray. However, like I said.. "I still struggle to find the logic for" the 12mm midsole pitch (that's not to say I don't understand the reasons why behind the pitch/wedge i.e. ankle equinus).

    Why not address the underlying reasons for the likes of Achilles Tendinosis on an individual basis - instead of providing a generic crutch of sorts within virtually all running shoes for the masses. Condition the Achilles, condition the Triceps Surae group - not accommodate the problem (weak link) via a generic midsole wedge... whilst then potentially contributing to other problems/injuries to other runners. Anyway, that's my views on this issue.
  4. I've got an original pair of SL 76 (not re-issue)- The shoe I always wanted as a kid; I got them from the sports shop my dad used to take us to when I was heavily into athletics when it closed down- hence I got some old stock from the depths of the depths of the store room. I can't wear them though- they ruin my knees.:drinks
  5. GLeahy-643

    GLeahy-643 Welcome New Poster

  6. wdd

    wdd Well-Known Member

    I think that you have hit the nail on the head.

    I think that there is an assumption that simply training for running, or whatever sport, is enough to 'condition' the achilles, etc but I think that you are absolutely right, the achilles need to be conditioned/trained separately alongside whatever other training is being done and on an ongoing basis, ie as long as you are training you need to be conditioniing/training the achilles/calf muscles?

    Are Alfredson's enough or does it require something more?

  7. BEN-HUR

    BEN-HUR Well-Known Member

    I personally think it wise to have the Achilles/Triceps Surae region appropriately conditioned - Achilles tendon injuries are one of the most problematic injuries to recover from due to the poor healing nature of the Achilles, coupled with the high amount of stress/forces directed to the structure - but you can certainly heal from it.

    I personally have never referred to Alfredson (i.e. the "Alfredson protocol") in Achilles rehab - albeit I have a similar methodology i.e. eccentric loading of the Achilles (I believe there is a thread circulating round here about naming conditions/methods after one's self - however, Hakan Alfredson may have a legitimate claim here???). One first needs to ascertain that they have either Achilles Tendinosis or Insertional (you wouldn't start eccentric loading exercises with an insertional condition).

    Studies have shown that eccentric loading of the Achilles to enhance the healing process is very effective. I advise gentle eccentric loading the Achilles off a platform (i.e. forefoot on edge of step & lower heel down). I also advise then to do walking backwards drills (i.e. on an oval); then to progress to running backwards drills/reps (over about 50m) with walk back recovery (these are more dynamic eccentric loading exercises - not sure if Alfredson advises this). Once the Achilles is getting stronger & there is limited discomfort, I then advise to progress running backwards down an incline (exacerbates the eccentric loading & duration) as part of a regular maintenance program.

    ***** Self massage of the Achilles is extremely important during the rehab period (speak from personal experience)... as well as part of the maintenance program i.e. rub the Achilles up & down & from side to side for a minute or so before heading off for a run (of course regular massage throughout the day is also required).

    - Start taking vit. D (low vit. D potentially can affect tendon health). [You’ll be surprised how many people are vit. D deficient - even in sunny Australia]

    - Have a plyometric program in your weekly training schedule - amongst other things, plyometrics effectively conditions the Achilles/Triceps Surae group to the activity specific stress/forces of sport (running). Of course this more dynamic/force loading activity is implemented beyond the healing stage.

    For what it’s worth, that in part (i.e. putting aside orthotic therapy) is the Ben-Hur protocol (or should it be the Thomas protocol) :rolleyes: ;).
  8. BEN-HUR

    BEN-HUR Well-Known Member

  9. GLeahy-643

    GLeahy-643 Welcome New Poster


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