Add to the fact that athletic footwear manufacturing technology was primitive in the 1970’s. This meant that foam wedges had the tendency to compact very quickly and lose some of its intended cushioning properties as quickly as within a few hours of use. Running brands tried to counter this shortcoming by adding thicker wedges, and at the same time looking for alternatives like polyurethane and non-foam cushioning systems (Nike Air, Saucony Grid, etc). Initial embedded cushioning systems were relatively huge, further contributing to the size of the midsole. But consumer reaction was favourable, and swift, mainstream adoption of these padded shoes followed. Thus was born a new industry, and what we see today is a legacy – a combination of footwear construction change influenced by interpretation of early bio-mechanical studies, and subsequent consumer acceptance of complex running footwear.
Ironically, recent studies point out that there has been no reduction in percentage of injuries even after the supposed advancement of running footwear. That said, this in no way implies that all bulky shoes lead towards injury. It is just that a shoe which works for one runner might cause problem for another. Goes out to prove that no brand has reached the holy grail of running shoe design – a perfect wonder-shoe of sorts for all runners. The concept just seems impossible, given the multitude of variables involved.
Fast forward to present day, and it appears that the minimalist boom has slowed down, if the 2013 report from Sportsonesource on sales of minimalist shoes is anything to go by. Some consolidation has happened in the process; what has found resonance with runners are shoes which take a ‘middle ground’ approach towards footwear construction. Shoes like Nike Free, Brooks Pure series or the Saucony Kinvara, which combine elements like flexibility, lower weight, minimalist uppers yet offering a comfortable amount of sole cushioning. So while the sales of the Vibram Five Fingers might have tapered off, lightweight running footwear seem to face no such impediment in sales. And why do we think the Vibram Five Fingers aren’t as popular with mass runners as they used to be? We’ll try to cover that in our Vibram Five Fingers Bikila review.