One of the issues regarding our wonderful sport is the never ending line of new trends. So far we've had every cushioned system invented by man; from air to gel; an array of gadgets that can measure: speed, heart rate , altitude, and even calories burnt; we can even purchase micro chips which are inserted into particular lines of shoes; and runner oriented GPS systems. Of course how much information conveyed to us by these latest goodies is of use is open to debate. And now we can buy footwear that sacrifice support and cushioning in order promote the natural movement of our feet; such as the Five Finger range by Vibram.
Runners are now starting to realise that a well cushioned and supportive shoe is not necessarily an insurance against injury. Currently there is a trend towards a more minimalistic approach. But have runners gone too far with this? And do these new shoes which are no more than supportive socks really prevent injuries?
Lets just look at the case for and against Five Fingers. For minimalist running there is nothing better around that enhances this. In fact most runners probably brought a pair after reading Born To Run; the story of a tribe of indigenous Mexicans who run great distances in nothing more than old tyres strapped to their feet. However what is important to consider is that the Indians mentioned in the book have run in this state since childhood. Whatsmore they are very slightly built, and do all their running on trails and condensed earth.
Contrast this with yourselves. The chances are that very few of you share the same build, and probably do a large percentage of your running on hard surfaces. Also your footwear might be a conventional shoe that is well cushioned and possibly stable.
The purpose of this article is not to criticise this latest trend; but to put forth considerations. I believe that they they do have their place, but should only be worn by a select few: those who are slightly built, have excellent to perfect biomechanics, and do most of their running on soft surfaces. I think that those of you who don't fall into this category should think very carefully prior to purchasing them otherwise you could get injured.
As for me I weigh 67 kilos, although I have quite a heavy bone structure, even though my right foot has a normal gait my left does pronate and alas I don't have enough soft surfaces where I live to run on. Therefore five fingers are out of the question for me. Instead I will do most of my running in Mizuno Wave LDs or Wave Aeroes; fantastic shoes that are slightly minimalistic without sacfricing too much cushioning, and yet very responsive.
Thank you for reading this and I would really appreciate any comments. Maybe you might even have a pair; if so let us know your thoughts.
For me the best thing about the barefoot trend has been the number of companies bringing out good lightweight neutral shoes, and cutting back on the heavy stability models - much more choice than a few years back.
The Puma FAAS range is worth a look if you like the brand; a genuine running shoe, flexible and light.