ZERO DROP "All the Shoes That Fit"

6Jul/12Off

Skora Running’s New Video is Missing One Element: More Shoe Footage!

Newcomer to the natural running footwear sector is Skora Running, whose shoes are stylish, innovative, and unlike anything else out there. It seemingly has all the right ingredients for a high-performance shoe. For example, Skora's zero-drop Form has an upper made with goatskin leather and sheepskin leather lining; asymmetric lacing and no-tongue construction to provide a glove-like fit; minimal cushioning and a curved section profile in both the forefoot and heel. And the shoe doesn't come cheap, either ($195). Skora's new "Run Real" video is also cool to watch; the techno soundtrack and crystalline cinematography alone will want you to go out and run, no matter what's on your feet. Alas, the video woulda scored a lot higher if it only showed more of the shoe. Going for mood and effect is okay if you are Nike and everyone on the planet  knows the brand. Skora might want to do another video with the same footage but maybe add some extra scenes with detailed close-ups of the shoe.

3Jul/12Off

ASICS’ New Gel-Lyte 33s Are Being Marketed As Light and Fast, and with an Ad Campaign that Makes Little Sense

 

ASICS' new Gel-Lyte 33s seem like the bizarre offspring of the candy-colored Newtons and mega-popular Nike Frees. Bright colors for the uppers are being combined with a lightweight super-flexible tread to make runners think they are going pseudo-barefoot or minimalist. Never mind that the 33's heel-to-toe differential is as steep as any beginner's bunny ski slope. But the ASICS gang realized that the Nike Frees were mopping up the competition in the minimalist footwear sector.  The Beaverton bunch needed to have their toes stepped on.  Nor can ASICS can be accused of being all that original. They aren't. Their new print ad campaign for the 33s seems mighty Hunger Games-ish. Then again, do you really want to equate running shoes with an arrow. Wasn't the mighty Greek hero Achilles felled by an arrow in his heel in the Trojan war?

28Apr/12Off

Best Demonstration of FiveFingers Running…Ever!

After his legs cramped up, Remus Medley walked on his hands across the finish line of the 2012 Boston Marathon. Photo by Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters.

 

 

26Apr/12Off

Fake Barefoot Running Shoes…Make Your Own!

Go totally zero drop with "fake overshoes."

We all know that the term "barefoot shoe" is a tiresome self-contradiction, just like other popular expressions such as "non-alcoholic beer," "near miss," and "deafening silence." And so when footwear companies jumped on the barefoot bandwagon, purists rightly objected to the oxymoronic/marketing hype. "You can't wear shoes and say you're barefoot!" Well, with barefoot and minimalist running these days, nothing is what it seems. Now you can create Fake Overshoes that allow you to wear shoes and still remain barefoot. Better yet, you can proudly walk right past those red-and-white store signs by the front door that says, "No shoes, no service."  The shod set won't pay you a moment's notice! To make your own pair of treadless trump de 'loeil footwear, Instructables.com provides detailed instructions and a helpful PDF. You will need, however, to have some tools such as a hacksaw and Dremel device. Then like Bob Dylan sings in I'll Be Your Baby Tonight,  "Just get your shoes on, do not fear."

29Mar/12Off

Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against Vibram FiveFingers for Misleading Consumers That Its Shoes Provide “Health Benefits of Barefoot Running”

Berman DeValerio, one of the country's premier class action law firms focused on business litigation, has recently filed a class-action lawsuit against Vibram and Vibram FiveFingers in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. The complaint seeks a jury trial on the grounds that Vibram is making "false" health claims about its product. These "deceptive" claims include the following: "that the barefoot  footwear concept  improves posture and foot health, reduces injury risk, strengthens muscles in feet and lower legs, and promotes spine alignment." The entire legal document is reproduced below.

But first a few things.  Vibram isn't the first shoe company to be in the legal hot seat. Earlier this month, a Baltimore product liability lawyer filed a  Skechers ‘Shape-Ups’ Class-Action Lawsuit that "seeks money damages for consumers who paid a “premium price” for Skechers “Shape-Ups” based on TV, print and Internet ads that touted the toning shoes’ health benefits." The complaint  further states that "Skechers is currently being investigated for its toning shoes marketing claims" -- it would provide health benefits 'without setting foot in a gym'--by the Federal Trade Commission. In September, the FTC reached a $25 million settlement with Reebok for making similar fitness claims about its own brand of toning shoes." CONTINUE READING THE FULL LEGAL COMPLAINT AGAINST VIBRAM/VIBRAM FIVEFINGERS

17Mar/12Off

Guess Who’s Legs Appear on Running Times’ April Cover?

Spoiler alert (sorta): the answer is found on the contributors' section in the front of the magazine, so Zero Drop recommends you buy a copy of the April issue of Running Times, or if you are a subscriber, check the page again. Another alternative is to go here: those deeply-muscled 45-year-old legs belong to the co-founder and executive director of the Natural Running Center. Last fall, he won the Air Force marathon outright in 2:38.  The secret to his age-defying success: mastering the art of natural running, doing most of his training barefoot, and practicing good running form and drills. Nor is it the first time that his legs have been used as a "model".  The logo for the Natural Running Center was based on a photo of him while he was posed in the same iconic Jim Fixx stance that appeared on the cover of his best-selling book in the late 70s.  Running Times went with the same retro idea-- an homage to a time when running shoes were a lot like today's minimal shoes: flat-soled, non-bulky, less heel-to-toe drop, more flexible.

To Running Times' credit, they have been instrumental in getting the word out about minimalism and minimalist running shoes.  Nor is the April cover story its first that's focused on minimalism. Editor-in-chief Jonathon Beverly cogently explains the magazine's ongoing interest in the topic:

This year marks the third time we’ve dedicated a cover to the concept of minimal shoes. On the past two April issues we showed a barefoot runner (2010) and a runner in a pair of the second generation, more mainstream minimal shoes (2011)...Why another issue on minimalism? Haven’t we heard enough? Frankly, yes, we’ve heard enough of unsubstantiated claims, personal testimonials and gurus calling us to give all our shoes to the poor, be born again as minimal runners and come and follow them. We’ve also heard enough reactionary responses from old-guard podiatrists, coaches and athletes.Over the past five years, minimal shoes have gone from an option to a fad to a religion, polarizing the discussion. As often happens in religion, adopting minimalism has become about adherence to the sacred tenets of the cult (different for every guru, of course), which has obscured the end goal: to run faster, farther and longer without injury

Stepping away from the “ism,” what appears clear from research is that the best runners run with a light, efficient stride similar to how barefoot kids the world over run naturally. Also increasingly borne out with research is that wearing less structured shoes (lower heel-to-toe drop, more flexible, less material between the foot and the ground) can encourage this type of stride, if you’re able to handle such shoes.What’s been lacking from this discussion is much meaningful guidance on that last “if” — short of trying new shoes and getting injured, how do you know if you’re ready to go minimal? And, if you want to get more ready, what can you do to improve? Furthermore, what injuries are common to those who are transitioning to minimal, and how can you avoid them? This is what we’re hoping to contribute to the topic this issue, in a series of reasoned articles that avoid the religious rhetoric and the debate and guide you to better running.

21Feb/12Off

‪Sh*t Runners Say to Barefoot Runners‬

Comic mastermind Steven Sashen has hit LOL-paydirt again with his follow-up video to “Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say.” In this sequel, the founder of Invisible Shoes examines “Sh*t Runners Say to Barefoot Runners.”  Zero Drop gives this really, really funny video Two Big Toes Up!

9Dec/11Off

Two Rivers Treads Launches New Online Store for Minimalist Runners

Things are happening at a furious and exciting pace in the small town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and more specifically the nation's first minimalist shoe store, Two Rivers Treads, which got a huge shout-out this week in the New York Times: "Two River Treads {is} a 'natural' shoe store sandwiched between Maria’s Taqueria and German Street Coffee & Candlery in Shepherdstown, W.Va., which, against all odds, {owner} Cucuzzella has turned into possibly the country’s top learning center for the reinvention of running." The article was written by Chris McDougall.

The Trail Glove is one of several Merrell barefoot-style shoes sold at Two Rivers Treads.

Two Rivers Treads now has a brand new online store that launched on Wednesday. Many of the top minimalist brands are carried here: Merrell, Newton, Inov-8, Altra, New Balance (Minimus), VivoBarefoot, Stem, and Vibram.  And what's also great about the online store is the emphasis placed on footwear education, running form, and helpful videos. Three of the many favorable testimonials on the store site said it best:

My husband and I drove 650 miles this summer to see this minimalist store. I bought a pair of Terra Planas {Vivo Barefoot) which I love.  I hope when people think about buying a running shoes they visit a store that hears their needs and one that gives back to the community such as Two Rivers Treads. The store has become the epicenter of healthy running. Healthy running begins with your feet and Two River Treads only carries healthy shoes.

I came into the store after just reading "Born to Run". The staff spent tons of time discussing the ins and outs of barefoot shoes and what my expectations should be. I left with New Balance Minimus Trail and I wish I never had to put another kind of shoe on my foot again. It has taken some time to get my feet/legs ready for the running, but the change is amazing. I have a faster turnover, less fatigue due to the more efficient gait and no more pain in my knee. I hope that every runner has an equally positive experience. I'm a believer. 

The super-wide, zero-drop Altra Instinct is also available at Two Rivers Treads.

I'm a 45-year old runner serving in the US Armed Forces. After running a few marathons last year as I have in years past, I was ready to end my running career because I couldn't withstand the chronic knee pain any longer. I had tried every shoe, custom orthotic, every brace, every treatment short of surgery. I had just figured with age that all good things must come to an end. I was fortunate to cross paths with Two Rivers Treads and Dr. Mark Cucuzzella. Their expert staff took the time to explain body mechanics, skeletal disposition of the foot, and traditional shoe and treatment plans along with a gait analysis (all free). They introduced me to natural style running techniques and after a short transition period of re-learning to run, I have been able to run pain free while throwing away all my previous shoes, braces, etc.
I'm scheduled to run a few more marathons in the coming months and for the first time in many years, I'm excited to go to the starting line injury free! Thanks Two Rivers Treads and Dr. Mark! 

Zero Drop says, "Check out the store or give them a call 1-855-878-7323 (toll-free). They even offer free shipping and have a generous 30-day return policy.

18Nov/11Off

Altra Instinct Is a Zero-Drop Winner for Natural Running

Zero Drop just turned one-year old today. So now is a perfect time as any to review Altra Running’s zero-drop Instinct. It’s a great, affordable, game-changing minimalist shoe --blessed with traditional cushiony support in the tread, natural foot-shape design, and zero drop -- but first a few things. Many are still unclear what zero drop actually means.

Zero drop refers to the height differential between the shoe heel and toe area. Most conventional running shoes have an average drop of 12 mm, which places too much impact and stress on the heel region-- and we know what happens next and it's not good for runners. The runner's cushioned heel strikes the ground first instead of the shoe landing on the more biomechanically efficient midfoot or forefoot. Excessive heel-striking marks an open-invitation for potential knee and leg injuries. But minimalist and barefoot running shoes have a much less drop. Which means you are now landing on the midfoot or forefoot-- the way nature originally intended us to run.  Approaching zero drop with your footwear will get you as close as possible to natural or barefoot running.  Zero drop has become the ultimate goal for running shoe companies and runners alike.

But the majority of runners, who are used to running in shoes with huge built-up heels, aren't ready to suddenly go all the way to zero drop (which can also cause foot and leg injury if done too hastily because the joints, tendons, and muscles need sufficient time and training to make the new adjustment); hence footwear companies are busy developing intermediate or transitional shoes of varying heel-to-toebox height differences. These transition-style shoes like the popular Nike Frees are ideal for runners looking to safely, and without injury, gradually make the change to a healthier and more natural style of running.

The tres-trendy Vibram's FiveFingers is a zero-drop barefoot running shoe. The makers of the Instinct, Altra Running, which is a young company in Utah and co-founded by serious runners, originally coined the term “zero drop.” (Their lawyers never contacted me when I called my blog Zero Drop; I just thought it was a nifty and memorable name, and so I shamelessly borrowed it. In the beginning, I had toyed with naming the blog Minimalist Shoe, but the “m” word is not the easiest one to spell or type in the correct url.)

Now the review: I love the Instinct. While it’s not flashy or adorned with screaming bright colors, it’s a humble-looking shoe that works. The toebox is wide and ample for my Fred Flintstone feet; because there’s no elevated heel, I can land on the midfoot; and there’s enough cushioning on the outer sole that my feet don’t feel the rocks when I use the Instinct for trail running. Minimalist purists might object that the tread is too thick and inflexible, which diminishes proprioception or body-ground sense; but for the average reborn-to-run runner who wants a more natural gait, this objection seems less of an issue. The shoe is so damn comfortable to run in.

I have been running in the Instincts for about two months-- short runs, the occasional hour-plus runs, on roads, on trails, uphills, downhills--and I really don’t have any complaints. A good shoe should be like that. You aren't aware of any faults or minor annoyances. A bad shoe is when you are constantly aware of something not quite right-- for example, “my toes feel squashed.”

When Pete Larson aka Runblogger first reviewed the Instincts a while back, he said something very prescient and telling: “It's odd to think that a foot-shaped shoe might be considered an innovation, but Altra has done something unique with this shoe.”

The Instinct is priced at $99 (the company sent me a free pair for review), but if I were to go out tomorrow and needed to buy only one minimalist running shoe, I would choose the Instinct. It’s a versatile, all-purpose shoe that is stealthily winning over natural running converts nationwide. If runners ultimately vote with their feet, then the Altra Instinct has all the makings of a winner.

 

11Nov/11Off

Skora Running Shoes Aim to Score Big

Persistence has certainly paid off for Portland, Oregon-based entrepreneur and formerly injured runner David Sypiewski, who has quietly toiled for several years to make the perfect shoe for injury-free natural running. Soon, all runners will be able to step inside David's dream when Skora running shoes go on sale this February. Well-funded with $1 million in capital from a private investor, Skora just might have a fighting chance in the suddenly crowded minimalist marketplace. "Our shoes are designed to encourage running performance that is as bio-mechanically correct as possible,” Sypniewski told one sports retailer industry newsletter. “Our footwear lets people run naturally. Running form is the most important aspect to injury-free running. Adapting to a zero-drop shoe with minimal padding should be a gradual process and cannot be rushed. The shoes you use need to enable you to run with great mid-foot/whole-foot form and give you the proper feedback with every stride. SKORA shoes do this.”

According to Skora press material, the company will be launching its Base ($125) and Form ($195) shoes. Both models are built on a special footwear last "with a natural arch shape, zero drop from heel-to-toe, a generous ball girth and wide toe box. Total stack height in both models is 13mm with the insole, 9mm without. These features enhance a natural mid-foot/all-foot contact consistent with a ‘barefoot-style’ of running. Both models are designed to be worn comfortably with or without socks." Zero Drop can't wait to try these shoes.

2Nov/11Off

“The Once and Future Way to Run” by Chris McDougall in New York Times Sunday Magazine

Chris McDougall at Dr. Mark's Cucuzzella’s free barefoot running clinic last May in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Photo by http://machenfamily.blogspot.com.

The timing is perfect. And intentional. The New York City marathon is taking place this weekend. And in the New York Times Sunday magazine, Chris McDougall has written a wonderful article on natural, injury-free running with this rather emphatic headline: “The Once and Future Way to Run.” It’s available online here. It begins with an anecdote about Peter Larson aka Runblogger:

When you’re stalking barefoot runners, camouflage helps. “Some of them get kind of prancy when they notice you filming,” Peter Larson says. “They put on this notion of what they think barefoot running should be. It looks weird.” Larson, an evolutionary biologist at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire who has been on the barefoot beat for two years now, is also a stickler about his timing. “You don’t want to catch them too early in a run, when they’re cold, or too late, when they’re tired.”

If everything comes together just right, you’ll be exactly where Larson was one Sunday morning in September: peeking out from behind a tree on Governors Island in New York Harbor, his digital video camera nearly invisible on an ankle-high tripod, as the Second Annual New York City Barefoot Run got under way about a quarter-mile up the road. Hundreds of runners — men and women, young and old, athletic and not so much so, natives from 11 different countries — came pattering down the asphalt straight toward his viewfinder.

About half of them were actually barefoot. The rest wore Vibram FiveFingers — a rubber foot glove with no heel cushion or arch support — or Spartacus-style sandals, or other superlight “minimalist” running shoes. Larson surreptitiously recorded them all, wondering how many (if any) had what he was looking for: the lost secret of perfect running.

McDougall then goes onto explain how humans went from being “the greatest endurance runners” to limping, injury-prone weekend warriors.  Somehow we lost the ability to use our legs as natural springs or shock absorbers; instead we pampered our feet and legs in thickly cushioned running shoes that only ended up injuring that we felt needed protecting. Of course, this phenomenon is of recent vintage, created in large part by the running boom of the early 1980s, when footwear companies  began to engage in an escalating battle of who could make the biggest, baddest shoe. It was the footwear version of the arms race. Instead of ICBMs, it was monster-heel crash pads.

But all that is changing. And the catalyst was McDougall himself who learned how to run in Mexico’s Copper Canyon. “After getting rid of my cushioned shoes and adopting the Tarahumaras’ whisper-soft stride, I was able to join them for a 50-mile race through the canyons. I haven’t lost a day of running to injury since.”

He then writes that while “barefoot-style” shoes are now a $1.7 billion industry,”it’s not always the footwear that makes a profound impact on whether a runner gets injured.”It’s about form. Learn to run gently, and you can wear anything. Fail to do so, and no shoe — or lack of shoe — will make a difference.”

Later in the article, McDougall brings up the name Mark Cucuzzella, who as readers of this website know is the Natural Running Center’s co-founder and executive director. Mark also owns a shoe store, and not just any run-of-the-mill running store.  McDougall writes, “Two Rivers Treads {is} a “natural” shoe store sandwiched between Maria’s Taqueria and German Street Coffee & Candlery in Shepherdstown, W.Va., which, against all odds, Cucuzzella has turned into possibly the country’s top learning center for the reinvention of running.”

McDougall visited Mark and the store twice and the article explains what he found out about barefoot running in this small town. I won’t spoil the fun and tell you here because the New York Times piece is worth reading in its entirety. But I will end matters with this quote by Pete Larson from the article: “{Mark}  has turned a small town in an obese state into a running-crazed bastion of health.{His} effort in transforming Shepherdstown is a testament to what a single person can accomplish.”

Final note: The new online Two Rivers Treads store launched today. Go here.  Brands they carry include Altra, VivocBarefoot, New Balance, Merrell,  Newton,  Saucony, Vibram FiveFingers, and others. Timing is everything!

4Oct/11Off

“Teach Your Children Well”–Get Your Kids Into Minimalist Shoes to Ensure Natural Foot Development

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, family physician, father of two young children, and recent winner of the Air Force Marathon (he just turned 45!), is a strong believer in promoting proper foot health and natural growth for children right from the very beginning. "Children should play in their bare feet or in activity shoes that complement natural foot development and proper biomechanics of movement." In a recent essay for the Natural Running Center, where Mark is a co-founder and executive director, he addressed the topic of kids feet. Here's an excerpt:

Kids’ shoes until recently have been marketed by the shoe companies to parents, educators, and health care professionals to  prepare  our kids for  shoes they are marketing for adults to wear. The modern shoe industry and its marketing machine effectively convince parents that when running, a child should wear miniature versions of traditional adult running shoes; almost all of which have elevated heels, extreme cushioning, and some form of motion control technology.  Many dress and casual shoes for children are also stiff and overly supportive.

Here’s an important point to keep in mind – a child’s foot is not a miniature version of an adult’s foot. In early development, a child’s foot is widest across the toes. If our population wore shoes that were designed with this functional shape from birth, most adults would also have feet with the widest part across the toes, and the toes would be perfectly aligned with the metatarsals (long bones in midfoot). Most of a child’s developing foot is composed of cartilage, which is gradually replaced by bone. If the cartilage is deformed by badly shaped or rigid shoes, the bones will take on the deformed shape. More than 80 percent of foot problems, bunions and injuries are a result of misshaped and inflexible shoes. It’s vital that kids’ shoes allow enough room for natural growth, until the foot bones mature. This doesn’t happen until ages 18-19 for girls and 20-21 for boys. Simply put; inflexible, poorly shaped shoes are potentially harmful – they restrict the natural movement and development of the foot.

Currently, almost every running shoe company has products supporting natural running. Most of these new shoes are being made solely for adults. Outside of a few select brands (VivoBarefoot Kids, Merrell Kid’s,  Vibram,  Softstar, and Pediped as examples) a void exists in the development of proper youth footwear, where natural foot function and development are perhaps most critical.

Go here to read full essay.

14Sep/11Off

What All Barefoot Runners Dream of…When Their Street Gets Repaved

Zero Drop received the following photo from Nick Pang, founder and editorial mastermind of Minimalist Running Shoes, a popular blog where many runners and walkers first become aware of new models, brands, and footwear availability. He attached this note: "My street is getting re-paved. Once it's done in two days, I'll have a brand new 100 meters of hilly barefoot training track! I will have to measure it." Nick is also the shoe review editor of the Natural Running Center where over 60 minimalist and barefoot-style shoes have been tested. spec'ed, and reviewed

26Aug/11Off

Minimalist Running Shoes Are Popular at the Outdoor Retailer Show

The just-held summer Outdoor Retailer Show, which takes place each year in Salt Lake City, can easily overwhelm the senses and send a gear nerd or wilderness aficionado into paroxysms of utter bliss. All the established companies like North Face, Salomon, Mountain Hardwear, and Columbia have huge booths, whereas newcomers in small stalls are hoping to land the next big thing. Change occurs fast in the outdoor retail sector. We are seeing that happen with running and walking footwear. A feature article on minimalist running shoes appears in the current issue of the sporting goods industry trade journal SGB Weekly:"Along with a few traditional brands such as Brooks, New Balance and Saucony, trail running brands like Salomon, GoLite and Vasque, and lifestyle brands K-Swiss and Skechers, were all touting solutions to the less-is-more craze.

"Zoot, marking its first OR appearance since 2008, previewed its fast-looking Ultra TT 5.0 while Avia showcased its 7.4 oz Avi-Bolt III. Ecco launched its first BIOM trail shoe and a new BIOM Lite trainer that encourages foot and lower leg strengthening. Oversized approaches to the natural running movement came from Hoka One One and Tecnica. Newer brands addressing the minimal opportunity exhibiting at the show included Terra Plana, Inov-8 and Altra Zero Drop Footwear, which was recently acquired by fitness equipment giant Icon Health & Fitness.

"Merrell again saw a busy booth as it widely expanded its barefoot collection to cover road running, transitional shoes, water shoes, training and a Barefoot Life collection encompassing a slip-on moc, ballet slipper, Mary Jane and flip flop. New Balance introduced the first zero-drop version of the NB Minimus collection. Vibram, which partnered with both brands on their minimal approaches, also introduced new running and casual styles on its own."

The primary thrust of the article was an inquiry into minimalism either as a flash-in-the-pan trend or real movement with staying power and legs. A number of footwear company execs and one founder (Kigo) were quoted in the piece. Here's a selection of excerpts. Opinions naturally varied across the shoe spectrum.

"It’s a great category to be in," said Dave Jewell, footwear category manager at Zoot Sports. "What it looks like is more running shoes will start to get closer in minimalist construction to the minimalist shoes. Maybe running shoes {will} meld with minimalism and they simply become the evolution of running shoes."

"I think there is the concern in the industry," said Scott Briggs, president of GoLite Footwear. "Just like the whole wellness category that spiked so quickly and then imploded, I think people are looking over their shoulders and saying, 'Is this growing too fast?' 'Are too many people coming in here?' "It's woken up the industry to the benefits of what we’re really doing and providing. I also think it’s been great for the consumer. It's making them challenge everything they’re doing and buying and it’s given a boost to the category. It's one of the reasons it's so healthy."

"Fran Allen, VP of global sales at Saucony, also does not see a 'boom and bust' cycle with minimal akin to toning. 'First, the growth has been more gradual. Secondly, this was a grassroots movement, created and fueled by consumers, in stark contrast to the heavily-promoted, overly-hyped toning category created by marketers. We are now looking at different ways to construct running shoes, building a more neutral/natural foot position...Kinvara Peregrine Trail shoes, and the Nike Free – could become bigger than the zero-drop, very minimal shoes because it more easily reaches a wider group of runners.Our Kinvara could end up being our number one shoe in the near future. Why? Because it is not as radical a departure from 'traditiona]" running shoes, it doesn't require a slow build up in how much you can use it."

"Bryan Gothie, senior product manager for New Balance Outdoor, agreed that the lightweight and minimal trend does continue to strengthen and evolve a little differently for brands. 'In addition to concepts that push the envelope such as our new NB Minimus Zero collection, which launches for spring 2012, we are looking more closely at our products across all categories to identify methods to reduce weight or create a more minimal experience. We are lowering the heel-to-toe drop in some of our performance running shoes to encourage a more natural running motion.Motion control shoes that have traditionally been a bigger, beefier shoe, can still be improved with new materials and constructions that create a more lightweight experience without sacrificing performance - not necessarily lightweight, but lighter."

"Jared Aldrich, running specialty national sales manager at Merrell, sees minimalism as more of a 'movement' than a trend.'Barefoot will be a core part of our Merrell business and is staged to grow more as we bring the benefits of barefoot beyond running and into other outdoor activities like water, train and life. We are going to show a commitment to the run specialty channel with a dedicated sales team.But he recognized that the rising number of brands entering the minimal category will be a challenge for retailers deciding on what minimal styles make the cut.We believe Merrell has a spot on the selling wall based upon our core beliefs and our early adoption into the barefoot category. Our core beliefs would consist of education being a top priority, true barefoot shoes equaling zero drop, and a focus in creating the transitional or minimalist shoes. We will continue to develop our educational assets so our customers and the consumer have what they need for a fun and healthy barefoot experience. This side effect will also justify a line of 'transitional shoes' that we will launch in Spring of 2012."

"Rachelle Kuramoto, co-founder and director of marketing for Kigo Footwear, an eco-friendly minimalist footwear line that marked its second OR show, agreed that while minimalist shoes have proven they can reduce injury, it's not 'a panacea for injury or magic performance enhancer. I think we will see more serious training and education programs, as well as more lifestyle offerings that allow people to walk, play, work, etc. in their minimalist shoes in order to strengthen and prepare their bodies to benefit from natural motion."

For a comprehensive look at current and forthcoming running shoes --barefoot-style, minimalist, neutral/transition-- please visit the Natural Running Center.

23Aug/11Off

Adipure Trainer Will be Marketed as the “First Barefoot Gym Shoe”

Earlier today, Zero Drop reported on the launch of Adidas's new barefoot-style shoe called the Adipure Trainer. There was little to go on based on the available facts percolating even in Internet time. But thanks to Counterkicks which attended the New York City press conference, more details have emerged. This is shoe designed primarily for gym use! Runners take a back seat! The Adipure Trainer going to be marketed as the "first barefoot gym shoe." Of course, folks have been wearing FiveFingers in gyms for several years, despite often getting strange looks by staff and club members. A few clubs have been known to forbid the use of VFFs.  So why has Adidas decided to move in this indoor direction? Certainly, there are far more people who go to the gym than run. Or maybe it has something to do with the high number of running injuries experienced by FiveFingers fans who ramp up their mileage too quickly on feet and legs unaccustomed to a new way of footstriking. What's most telling is the Adidas video accompanying the new shoe. A muscular-looking athlete in Adipures is seen doing a series of balance and agility drills under the watchful, no-nonsense, drill-sergeant instruction of Mark Verstegen, Founder and President of Athletes' Performance, who is also well-known for his books on building up one's core. Verstegen is also Director of Performance for the NFL Players' Association.  So it does make sense after all -- the Adipure Trainer is going big and mass-market right from the start. And clearly, they are prepared to step on Vibram's toes.

23Aug/11Off

Adidas Launches New “Barefoot” Running Shoe — Adipure Trainer

A super alert reader who goes by the moniker Squirrel forwarded to Zero Drop information on today's launch by Adidas of its new barefoot-style running shoe called the Adipure. Details are still scant, so here's what can be found online which is pretty much SOP press release: "Adidas is going barefoot. The world's second-largest athletic company unveiled its first "barefoot" training shoe Tuesday. The Adipure, which will be in stores in November for $90, is designed to mimic exercising barefoot, but with the protection, traction and durability of wearing shoes .Adidas, which is trying to expand in the U.S. market where rival Nike dominates, is the latest athletic company to capitalize on the small but burgeoning market for so-called minimalist shoes. These shoes are a fraction of the $22 billion U.S. athletic shoe industry, but sales of them have more than doubled in the past year. Those who wear the shoes say they force them to rely on the body's natural movements and avoid injury. Critics say the shoes cause muscle injuries that running shoes do not."

Zero Drop will dismiss the critics's charges. We have been down this road before. Lots of time. (Gradually transition to minimalism to avoid injury.) The colors of the new Adipure suggest speed and agility, a lighter shade of the Navi'i in Avatar, and more akin to a blue Vodka drink. The uppers seem to have that FiveFingers pocketed vibe, but the sole does not. Hard to tell at the present since Zero Drop hasn't yet come across any photos of the tread. When we do, we''ll alert everyone. But based on the pending Vibram patent infringement lawsuit against Fila and its "Skeletoes," it might be safe to wager that the Adidas footwear designers went in a more conservative direction with the sole. Which is not to say that the shoe is like any other shoe in Adidas's running shoe line. It looks zero drop. It looks light. It looks fast. And apart from the colors and some design modernization, it reminds one of the Nike Sock Racer from the mid-1980s, a barefoot-style shoe way before its time.

P.S. For a look at other new running shoes that we expect to be seeing in stores later this fall, and early 2012, please visit the Natural Running Center.

14Aug/11Off

Vibram’s CEO Tony Post Ran NYC Marathon in Dress Shoes–not FiveFingers!

Step back in time to 1990. It's little more than two decades ago, but in the hyper-speed franticness of today's techno-info age, it seems paleo. Vibram's CEO, Tony Post, was then working as production manager of the men's shoe line at Rockport, later becoming Vice President of Products & Marketing. At the 1990 New York City Marathon, Post showed up in Rockport DresSports casual shoes. The former collegiate runner then went all 26.2 miles in them. Rockport then made a short television commercial of these shoes and Post called "Marathon Man." (No, it had nothing to do with Dustin Hoffman and a Nazi war criminal.) Here's the original ad, and who knew that Mr. FiveFingers first shot to fame by running through New York City's five boroughs.

7Aug/11Off

Zombie Runner Store Video

Zombie Runner came online in 2003, to serve the needs of trail runners, adventure racers, hikers and anyone who loves the outdoors. In the fall of 2008, Zombie Runner opened its first retail store and cafe in Palo Alto, CA. The two co-founders, Don Lundell and Gillian Robinson, are veteran ultrarunners with numerous 100-mile and 24-hour runs to their endurance credit. Their store fully embraces both trail running and minimalist footwear. In terms of running store videos, this one is quite informative and worth watching.

5Aug/11Off

Nike Free Music Shoe

From Japan, comes this ingenious and creative video that marries the super-flexible Nike Free with electronic music. Bending and twisting the shoe produces varying musical sounds. The bass is reserved for foot-striking.

28Jul/11Off

New Balance’s New TV Ads for Minimus — “Like Barefoot, Only Better” — Should be Much Better

New Balance’s new ad campaign for the barefoot-style Minimus has just been unveiled to the public with commercials on ESPN, Comedy Central, and the Discovery Channel. Each of the 30-second ads features a runner with one foot in the new Minimus and the other foot bare. In one ad, the raccoon-challenged trail runner is forced to walk on hot coals; and in another one, a nighttime runner enters a convenience store. The tagline reads, "Like barefoot, only better." The ads were produced by Arnold Worldwide in Boston. They might be funny to watch, but they make little sense. Did the runner lose his shoe? Or did he find one while going barefoot? And what about the uneven gait going shod/unshod? Also, walking on hot coals is actually safe in your bare feet; but if you were wearing rubber-soled shoes, they'd melt. Don't believe Zero Drop? Then go here.

Here's two of the commercials:

27Jul/11Off

New Larger Footprint for Two Rivers Treads — Nation’s First Minimalist Shoe Store

Two Rivers Treads’ new location in Shepherdstown, West Virginia-- street level and with a much larger store footprint to showcase its expanding minimalist shoe inventory as well as footwear-education teaching tools.

When Dr. Mark Cucuzzella first opened Two Rivers Treads in Shepherdstown, West Virginia in late spring 2010, it was the nation's first minimalist shoe store. One could easily argue that he was treading on new, unfamiliar natural running ground. Since then, six new natural running/minimalist stores have opened in the U.S., with several more scheduled to make their debut by 2012. Go to the Natural Running Center's website, for more information about these pioneering retail stores built around the growing populist demand by runners and walkers who are looking for "less is more" in non-bulky shoes. As for Two Rivers Treads, which began in a cramped space on a second floor, this past June it moved to larger, ground-floor quarters on Shepherdstown's main drag, and feeling quite at home amid the cafes, boutique stores, and small art galleries in the town's historic district. Mark and Two Rivers Treads have also recently launched a new blog called Run Shepherd, a fitting name for a town of only 3,000 in which almost everyone seems to run. A great part of this is due to Mark and the store's continuing push toward hosting footwear and gait clinics, events, races, and treating every customer as family. This past Sunday, despite the sweltering heat, well over 100 local runners (of all ages) showed up at Two Rivers Treads to be part of a short "grassroots" video that will be presented at the Newton Running retail conference in August.  Zero Drop will post the video when it's ready.

23Jul/11Off

FiveFingers Expands into Lace-up Running Shoes

Vibram's ever-popular FiveFingers is expanding into lace-up running shoes.  Don't fret if you are a VFF aficionado; the five individual pockets for your toes are still there. Birthday Shoes recently posted a sneak peak and some photos of the new styles, along with this caveat: "We don't yet know all the details on these Fall 2011 models . READ: These models will not be available until Fall 2011. It seems Vibram reps only learned about them in the past month at the most, and are slowly spreading word to retailers around the country (and world!). That means there is some speculation above and a few attempts to match scuttlebutt to photos. We'll sort it out here in the coming days and weeks." Birthday Shoes also wrote, "It looks like there may be a women's calf-length "boot" with Jaya sole called the FiveFingers Cervinia."

Finally, Zero Drop imagines that one day Vibram will probably come out with a new design called the OneFinger, and which will do away with the five toe pockets; instead, it will be designed like a typical barefoot running shoe.

19Jul/11Off

Who’s Giving Who the Finger? — Vibram FiveFingers vs. Fila Skeletoes in Legal Fight

Vibram FiveFingers--five pockets for five toes.

Just how unique are the Vibram FiveFingers? And what steps must the company take to ensure its foothold in the marketplace? When tens of million of dollars in sales are at stake, you shouldn't wait til the other shoe drops...and take corrective action. Last year, Vibram aggressively went off FiveFinger counterfeiters. (See earlier Zero Drop story here.) This year, it's going after footwear giant Fila and its Skeletoes for patent infringement. Here's what the sporting good business trade press is reporting:

Vibram SpA and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Vibram USA Inc., filed a lawsuit against Fila USA that alleges that Fila’s “Skele-toes” footwear infringes on US patents that cover Vibram’s FiveFingers. Fila USA, Inc. announced that the company will vigorously defend itself against the complaint filed on July 6, 2011 by Vibram S.p.A. and Vibram USA Inc. in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts alleging that Fila USA Inc.’s Skele-toes line of footwear infringes three patents.

Fila-Skeletoes -- four pockets for five toes!

The complaint alleges Fila USA, Inc.’s “Skeletoes” footwear is infringing several U.S. Patents held by Vibram. The FiveFingers Patents cover a variety of footwear designs comprising individual toe pockets."Before Vibram FiveFingers were introduced, there was no minimalist footwear constructed with individual toe pockets that encouraged natural, barefoot movement, while at the same time providing enhanced grip and protection. Vibram pioneered the minimalist footwear category," said Tony Post, Vibram USA’s President. 'Vibram launched the concept in 2005, and public reception has grown tremendously since, now the entire footwear industry has responded by entering the minimalist category. In fact, Vibram has even partnered with Merrell and New Balance to create minimal/barefoot like sole platforms that are complementary to our Vibram FiveFingers.'

Post added, “Vibram innovated the technology and earned the patents. With our success, copyists and counterfeiters have come out of the woodwork. We will continue to take aggressive action against all who infringe our intellectual property. These infringements are not only damaging to Vibram, they also hurt our retail partners and the public trust. Vibram will work diligently to bring such action to a stop.”In response, Fila issued a statement denying the charges. The statement read, “Fila has reviewed the allegations in Vibram’s complaint and has determined that they are without merit. Prior to developing and releasing this line of footwear in February 2011, Fila determined that the Skele-Toes shoes did not infringe any existing patents including those owned by Vibram. Though Vibram is generally credited with launching the minimalist trend in the footwear industry, Fila Skele-Toes joins a long history of shoes with articulated toes and represents a more accessible approach to this rapidly expanding minimalist footwear category.”

15Jul/11Off

Invisible Shoes…A Review

Yes, those are Phil Maffetone's legs. And yes, he's wearing Invisible Shoes.

by Dr. Phil Maffetone

I don’t like writing shoe reviews, because I don’t like many shoes. People often ask what I wear, and in the Barefoot section of my website, one could see some of these shoes. The fact is, most of the day, Coralee and I are usually barefoot. There are times when we do put something on our feet—playing a music gig, going into town, traveling, or when hiking and running on the trails we often wear something that’s minimal. Coralee has stuck with her Vibrams ever since first wearing them—the transition was overnight (see her review of them here on Zero Drop).

I love huaraches, but through the years rarely have found a pair that won’t bother me even for walking, let alone running. You see, I’m easily overloaded with sensory stimulation. Most shoes and sandals I’ve tried on immediately are annoying to my feet and brain. Throughout my career I’ve had many companies give me various foot products. Such was the case with a relatively new sandal I recently received. The company is Invisible Shoes and they refer to them as a “modern take on huaraches.”

This sandal is a fine fit to the simple yet exotic life—the totally holistic, minimalist world Coralee and I have created here in the southern Arizona mountains, one that yields the maximum amount of fun. We wear the least amount of clothing, are barefoot most times (and often bare-bodied), use the smallest amount of daily energy, plant the minimum amount of food for our year-round needs, and are as close to being off the grid without overspending on solar scams or being hermits. Whatever footwear we use is the bare minimum, and zero drop for sure.

The Invisible Shoe is nothing like flip-flops, which are spongy, too thick and flop each time you step (and one could never run in them without risking injury). In fact, like ill-fitting shoes, you have to use more muscle action to keep them from falling off your foot—that unhealthy physical effort can contribute to injury.

The only problem with Invisible Shoes—for me, at least—is that they require some assembly. They come simply as a sole with laces. But it has instructions. I’m not much for instructions, and long ago I learned not to do things I’m not good at. Luckily, Coralee, who is an M.D., is good with instructions, and at following them. Her simple surgical skills came in handy after watching the online video. Weaving the laces through the sole and around my foot appeared easy for her. I tried not to watch. In a very short time my huaraches were ready to wear.

I slipped them on—easy enough. I walked, jumped, and ran. It was an all around pleasant surprise. I actually liked them. They didn’t flop or fit weird, didn’t induce sensory overload, and I could use them in all terrains—smooth, sand, rocks and road. Despite the very thin sole, they appeared quite immune to sharp rocks and thick thorns common here in the high lush desert.

I hadn’t run in sandals in years, maybe decades, and would not run a long distance right away until getting used to them, especially the lace going between the first and second toe, which doesn’t seem to be taking much time even for me. But 20 minutes was enough to tell me these will work for running.

The Invisible Shoes come in two rubber tread thicknesses. The 4 mm “Connect” is closest to barefoot, and very lightweight. The 6 mm “Contact” has a bit more protection, stiffer, and both are very flexible.

While today’s shoe companies can’t help overcharging even for simple footwear, Invisible Shoes range from about $13 to $25 for kits (kids to adults), and about $40 for a custom-made pair. You can get the standard shoe kit for $19.95.  They even have online videos to show you how to assemble them. Of course, I didn’t watch any of them, but you might want to.

10Jul/11Off

Will the FDA Require Running Shoes to be Tested for Product Safety?

by Dr. Phil Maffetone

In 1994, seven CEOs from the nation’s largest tobacco companies declared under oath before a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill that “nicotine is not addictive.” Their testimony was a brazenly defiant refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of several decades of research that proved cigarettes and nicotine were health hazards. Now imagine that in a parallel universe it had been seven CEOs from the nation’s largest footwear companies all making the following declaration before that same Congressional Subcommittee on Health and the Environment: “Over-supported running shoes do not cause foot or leg injuries.” Even though a number of published footwear studies already indicated that this was the actual case, the running shoe CEOs were in lock step agreement that it was not.

Disclaimer: This warning label is entirely made up, and does not have the Surgeon General's approval.

But there’s more. Since their well-padded shoes were marketed as a way to prevent injuries, did these companies need to apply for FDA approval as stipulated by federal regulations for most other consumer products? No, the shoe companies didn’t need a green light from the FDA. The shoes companies did no safety studies on runners, submitted no papers to scientific journals, or got their “devices” approved for public use.

So why hasn’t the FDA required footwear companies, like most other consumer health-related products, which range from manual toothbrushes and wooden tongue depressors to blood pressure devices and even hot and cold packs, to be first tested to ensure that they not only are safe, but they do what they claim. In the case of the typical modern thick-soled oversupported running shoes, footwear companies have been given a free pass.

Here’s the catch. Somewhere along the way, shoes and shoe products of all types, including those worn by surgeons and nurses in a hospital’s operating room, inserts given to patients by therapists for treatment, therapeutic shoes, running shoes, and even “toning” shoes,” which claim both health and fitness benefits, are exempt from premarket testing. They are exempt by the FDA much like potentially harmful dietary and vitamin supplements can be sold to consumers without first being rigorously tested by a government agency.

Early last month, discussions on injury, minimalist, barefoot running, and conventional footwear on Zero Drop, which overflowed to Runblogger, with input from yours truly and many others, including Simon Bartold, head of research at Asics, addressed what for so long has been the elephant in the room. A call finally came for real research to study running shoes and injury. While it’s superb idea, I doubt that it will ever happen, at least in the way that the study should be conducted.

The proposed study was that each shoe should be rigorously tested using runners to find out once and for all whether the big-bonker shoes cause injury, if minimalist shoes fare better, and whether barefoot is best and perhaps the gold standard for healthy running.

But performing studies that clearly show whether a specific running shoe is good or bad is not going to occur. The million-plus dollar price tag alone would forbid it. And to do it correctly would take many years of testing; but shoes come and go in the market rather quickly. The cost, of course, would be passed on the consumers in the form of higher shoe prices.

But why should consumers pay for studies to help for-profit (and big profits they are—in the billions of dollars) companies demonstrate their shoes are harmful or not?

Many good studies on shoes and the potential for running injuries have been performed and published in respected medical and footwear science journals; and there are no doubt more of these studies underway right now. Moreover, the barefoot and minimalist movements, have done one additional thing: increased the interest of researchers and made more funding available.

Another reason the ideal running shoe/injury study can’t be done is because they have to use humans who have many variables. These include gait irregularly, postural distortion, muscle imbalance, and physical pain. This practically guarantees that it will be a short-term study. Since a published study usually lists its own limitations—scientists and journals require this as a way to appear more objective—these criteria are just babbled back by skeptics, in this case the public relations folks at shoe companies right back to the media.)

The types of studies typically performed by researchers also won’t satisfy most runners. Human studies typically demonstrate some “average” outcome, but consumers want to know “what does this mean for me.” For these studies, the conclusions can’t be narrowed to any one individual.

But the truth remains that many published studies already demonstrate the damage caused by conventional running shoes, or even walking in bad shoes. One of the earliest published studies describing the harm from shoes came in the early 1950s when a Canadian scientist, Dr. John Basmajian, showed that wearing shoes affected foot function through impairment of muscle activity. Known for his work in the area of electromyography (EMG) and biofeedback, the work of Basmajian and colleagues played a key role in other studies, later demonstrated by another Canadian, Dr. Steven Robbins, followed by Dr. Casey Kerrigan and her colleagues. The list goes on.

This is how the big shoe companies test their shoes...on machines, not human subjects.

Instead of the endless call for “more studies are needed,” there’s a better idea—a system of checks and balances already in place. It’s to lobby Congress to insist that the FDA follow its own guidelines and require running shoes to be pre-market tested on human subjects—and not by machines as many running shoe companies currently do in their research and development labs-- to demonstrate health and product safety. But getting the FDA to change its stance probably won’t happen as the big shoe companies command so much money and lobbying power on Wall Street and Capital Hill. And money talks.

Just as important as the published studies is real-life clinical evidence. There are many healthcare practitioners—from podiatrists and medical doctors to chiropractors and physical therapists—who have long been in the trenches treating injured runners before the shoe companies changed their products from flat minimalist shoes to oversupported ones (which began to occur around 1980). We saw how significant a runner’s body responded to the increasing thickness of shoes, including which muscles were most damaged by oversupported racers and trainers. This is the ultimate scientific inquiry—years of flat shoes, then years of thick shoes, now years of modern minimalist shoes. The combination of clinical observations with scientific evidence is a meaningful application of evidence-based medicine.

Clinicians who understand biomechanics could see the changes in the running gait as flat shoes became thicker and more cushiony. I treated thousands of runners, and often had them bring me their different shoes to evaluate how their body functioned in each pair. Finding the best pair usually meant flatter, less support. In addition, the immediate and dramatic change in virtually any runner who takes off his or her shoes and runs for just a few steps is obvious, at least for those who are open minded and interested in a runner’s health.

Perhaps an even better approach is to employ one, two or all three critical factors that already exist. First, for those who want more scientific explanations, they should look at the extensive peer-reviewed research studies published since the 1950s that demonstrate how shoes are harmful. Second just watch a person running in these oversupported shoes, and compare their gait when running with very flat shoes. Third, just take off your own shoes and run. If you don’t feel the force of being barefoot, perhaps you’re taken in by the marketing propaganda. But it’s never too late to break with the past. In other words, kick the habit.