Deconstructed: The Rise of the Minimalist Running Shoe

A history of barefoot and back again

African runner,Ethiopian athlete,marathon runner,record breaking,runner,track and field,Track Event,winner

Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila raise both hands in response to cheers after winning the 26 mile 385 yard olympic marathon race on September 10, 1960 in Rome. His time was two hours, 15 minutes, 16 seconds.     Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS

See Also: You Don't Know How to Run

The Minimalism Starter Kit

1960: New Balance introduces the Trackster, generally recognized as the first shoe seriously designed as a daily running shoe.

September 1960: Abebe Bikila (pictured) wins the Olympic marathon barefoot.

1976: Brooks introduces the Vantage, the first running shoe with an EVA midsole and “pronation control,” a big step toward what conventional running shoes look like today.

1977: Jim Fixx’s Complete Book of Running tops the New York Times bestseller list; Fixx wears Onitsuka Tiger racing flats on the cover.

1993–95: Tarahumara Indians win the Leadville 100-miler in Colorado wearing handmade sandals.

2004: Nike introduces the Free as a “training tool” to strengthen the feet and lower legs, an acknowledgment that most running shoes of the time provided no such benefits.

2009: Chris McDougall’s Born to Run becomes a bestseller, ushering the nascent minimalism movement into the mainstream.

2010: Just four years after the shoe was introduced, Vibram FiveFingers account for 2 percent of running-shoe sales. 

January 2010: Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman publishes research in Nature supporting the idea that conventional running shoes alter “natural” running mechanics.

May 2010: The backlash begins. The Hoka One One, a so-called maximalist running shoe with an eye-poppingly oversize midsole, debuts.

January 2012: Meb Keflezighi wins the Olympic marathon trials in Skechers, one of dozens of mainstream brands now making minimalist shoes.

March 2012: A class action is filed against Vibram for deceptive claims about the health benefits of its FiveFingers shoes.

December 2012: Former Vibram CEO Tony Post launches a line of minimalist shoes, ToPo.

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