The Outside Blog

Skiing and Snowboarding : Footwear

How Can I Start a Fire Without Matches?

Read More

Does the Vibram Lawsuit Mark the End of the Minimalist Fad?

There’s been a certain gleefulness in response to the news that Vibram has settled a class-action lawsuit over its FiveFingers running shoes for $3.75 million.

The FiveFingers have always been ridiculous looking, but now (finally!) there’s proof that they’re not even good for you. At least that’s how news of the settlement is playing in the media, from Deadspin to The Washington Post to The Wall Street Journal.

The lawsuit actually alleges something narrower. In advertisements, Vibram has claimed that the shoes offer health benefits to wearers, namely in the form of stronger feet and fewer running injuries. As I wrote when the suit was filed in 2012, there’s just no clear scientific evidence that FiveFingers, barefoot running, or any other minimalist shoe will lower your risk of getting injured, which made this a pretty clear case of false advertising. That was true in 2012 and it remains true today.

What’s different now is that the market for minimalist shoes has bottomed out. According to the Journal, sales in that category are down 47 percent this year even as the rest of the shoe industry has grown. What for several years looked like a trend with staying power now looks pretty clearly like a fad.

That’s unfortunate, because I’m mostly convinced that minimalist shoes are in fact better than normal shoes. Why? Even though the evidence for minimalism is weak and contradictory, it’s no weaker than the evidence for traditional shoes, which are probably over-cushioned and over-supported.

I run in an ultra-light model from New Balance, and I agree with most of the arguments in favor of “good form” running, even though I think the benefits of practicing good form are modest. The settlement means the number of minimalist options on the market will continue to shrink, and that leaves runners in worse shape.

But this was a lawsuit about an advertising campaign, not a style of running shoes. If you enjoy looking like a lizard while you run, there’s no reason to stop wearing the FiveFingers, although you might want to temper some of your minimalist boosterism, if only as a matter of good epistemology. And if you fly into a rage when you see people wear Vibram shoes, well, now you’ve got the United States District Court in Massachusetts on your side. 

Read More

Is Skechers the New Nike—or Just a Repeat of L.A. Gear?

Meb Keflezighi sporting a pair of Skechers at this year’s Boston Marathon was like Nicole Kidman showing up at the 1997 Oscars in her John Galliano dress—only better. 

Whereas Galliano’s profile went global (while Kidman went home empty-handed), for Keflezighi and Skechers, Boston proved to be an all-out win-win: Keflezighi, 39, unexpectedly won the marathon (in his GoMeb Speed 3s), and Skechers even more unexpectedly rebranded itself as a performance-shoe up-and-comer. In fact, not even five years ago, it would’ve made just as much sense (not!) if Kidman had worn a pair of Skechers to the Oscars. After all, Skechers’ most famous endorsers ‘till recently were Kim Kardashian and Joe Montana.

And then came the news earlier this week—while Nike and Adidas were still busy eating their respective hearts out—that two-time Olympic long-distance runner Kara Goucher, 35, signed on with the 22-year-old Manhattan Beach, California-based shoe company. “Between the people at Skechers’ Performance Elite Team, the shoes they’re working on, and the fact that they’d support me without any strings attached,” says Goucher, “it really was a no-brainer.”

Prior to 2010, Skechers was a casual-shoe company. But then it started seeing room for growth in the $7 billion performance-shoe industry. That helps explain why it brought in Kurt Stockbridge (formerly of Nike) and David Raysse (who designed the Grant Hill II for FILA back in 1996 and who debuted his own shoe company, Brandblack, last year) as part of its design team. It’s also probably the reason behind Skechers’ exploration into buying the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers franchise. Once the company had the designers, and enough ideas for a performance-shoe line, it could start bringing in athletes. Athletes who could endorse and also contribute to product development.

{%{"quote":"For Keflezighi and Skechers, Boston proved to be a win-win: Keflezighi, 39, unexpectedly won the marathon (in his GoMeb Speed 3s), and Skechers even more unexpectedly rebranded itself as a performance-shoe up-and-comer."}%}

“We had a strong point of view on our mid-foot strike technology, and how it could help Meb with his form—the rest is history now,” say Skechers’ Public Relations Director Jolene Abbott. So when Keflezighi chose not to renew his Nike contract in 2010, thinking they weren’t offering him enough money, he signed a six-figure deal with Skechers in 2011, then re-upped in 2013. As for Goucher, who’s been running in the GoRunRide3s, the new partnership just made sense. “We met with her as she was looking for new partners, and we all had the same goals in mind. It’s definitely a two-way street,” says Abbot.

That “two-way street” would be the fact that neither Keflezighi’s nor Goucher’s contract features the dreaded “reduction clause.” If Keflezighi or Goucher don’t perform well in races, Skechers doesn’t dock them any pay. Even better—and here’s the other contract watershed—Skechers allows them to wear logos of other corporate sponsors. In track and field especially, this demand of exclusivity is de rigeur and it’s long hindered the incomes of the athletes. No more. 

“My arrangement is highly unusual as I have two major sponsors,” says Goucher, who in March signed with Oiselle, the upstart Seattle-based women’s running-apparel company. “I’m proud to be the first professional runner to have such an arrangement and I genuinely hope it brings about a change in our sport and opens up more opportunities for track and field athletes. I’m very proud to have signed with two companies that were willing to think outside the box and do things in an unconventional way. I hope this is the beginning of a change in the running industry.” 

So while their athletic footwear may not be what revolutionizes the performance-shoe industry, Skechers’ contracts could certainly change the way the game is played.  

Read More

Nike "Back to the Future" Power Laces

Who doesn’t want to live in the world of Marty McFly via Back to the Future Part II? And even if you can't actually use a DeLorean to go back in time, you can at least dress like the movie's hero. 

In 2011, Nike came out with a limited edition of the MAG shoes featured in the film. For 2015, the company is stepping up its futuristic game by creating a pair of kicks with self-tying laces. Yes, you read that right, although we’re still not sure just how well this system will work in real life.  

Nike will make a pair of sneaks with power laces that tighten themselves. A little too futuristic for you? Don’t worry. You have at least a year to prepare for the debut, and it’s still unclear how many pairs will be made.

$TBD, solecollector.com

Read More

Does Your Gear Really Matter?

Read More

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Outside GOOur hottest adventure-travel tips and trips. Sent occasionally.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Subscribe
to Outside
Save Over
70%

Magazine Cover

iPad Outside+ App Access Now Included!

Categories

Authors

Advertisement

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

Previous Posts

2014

2013

2012

Blog Roll

Current Issue Outside Magazine

Subscribe and get a great deal! Two free Buyer's Guides plus a free GoLite Sport Bottle. Monthly delivery of Outside—your ultimate resource for today's active lifestyle. All that and big savings!

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Gear of the Day The latest products, reviews, and editors' picks. Coming soon.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Ask a Question

Our gear experts await your outdoor-gear-related questions. Go ahead, ask them anything.

* We might edit your question for length or clarity. If it's not about gear, we'll just ignore it.