Deconstructed: The Rise of the Minimalist Running Shoe
A history of barefoot and back again
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
1960: New Balance introduces the Trackster, generally recognized as the first shoe seriously designed as a daily running shoe.
See Also: You Don't Know How to RunInside the Minimalist Running Movement
The Minimalism Starter KitEasing into the barefoot revolution
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.