You can’t have missed them: glaring neon, with super-high stacks and pointy heels - it’s the new souped-up shoe from you know who… Yup, tick.
Their construction is a combination of foam, fluid-filled chambers and a ‘secret weapon’ which is all about giving runners an improvement in ‘running economy’ of 4% or so.
They’re being marketed as helping runners go faster, and elite athletes have been wearing them to break records. But in the arms race of foot races, some are calling this performance-enhancing ‘technology doping’.
World Athletics recently announced a ban on stack heights of over 40mm and more than one embedded plate, as well as ruling that the shoes elite athletes wear for races must have been available to buy on the open market for four months.
This means the shoes Brigid Kosgei wore for her new ‘unbeatable’ womens’ world record at the Chicago marathon will still count, but there is uncertainty whether the prototype shoes worn by Eliud Kipchoge in his first sub-2-hour marathon time in October 2019 would have been legal.
Yannis Pitsilidis, a professor of sport at the University of Brighton said recently that the effect of these shoes is “greater than some banned drugs”.
The international governing body of athletics has also announced a moratorium on any more of this performance-enhancing tech, reminiscent of what happened to thefull body suits that helped swimmers in the Beijing Olympics smash world records, only to be banned shortly after (although many of the world records achieved in them still stand). Ultimately the controversy, while arguably detrimental to the athletes involved, may not harm the coffers of the makers of the controversial new tech.
So what has all of this got to do with Vivobarefoot, a family-owned business that prides itself on making as little shoe as possible for you and your kids?
We think those considering forking out $250 for a shoe that may only last a few races (reports suggest that its effects don’t last much more than 100miles (160kms)) might also consider their long-term foot health.
A runner’s performance is built on a foundation of health - including that of the foot which is engineered to stretch and recoil when allowed to move naturally.1 A lot of the energy for a runner to move faster comes from these natural energy storage and release mechanisms.2 You could say our foot acts as the – free – carbon-fibre plate and foam beneath our legs.
At Vivobarefoot we believe that millions of years of natural R&D have already packed the muscles and tendons in your feet with all the energy return you need.
A growing body of evidence also suggests that as the cushioning in a shoe increases, so does the proportion of runners who alter running mechanics3,4 in ways associated with injuries.5-7
It is therefore possible that runners wear highly cushioned footwear while landing on poorly conditioned feet. A lifetime of cushioned, padded shoes might be contributing towards the compromised feet that then send people hobbling to expensive orthotics ‘solutions’.
Children who grow up barefoot have been shown to have wider, stronger feet than those who grow up regularly in shoes.8,9 (Incidentally, like a lot of the incredible Kenyan and Ethiopian runners dominating their sport). And foot muscle size and strength can be restored when adults revert to walking in minimalist shoes.10
In an era when so many are becoming increasingly disconnected from the planet, our movement and each other, giving our feet the chance to connect with the ground is no small thing.
We are on a journey to make as little shoe as possible, because we think the evidence shows that less shoe is better for you and the planet; our barely-there footwear lets your feet do what they were designed to do - be feet!
Our philosophy might not make us gazillionaires, but we like it this way. We´re delighted so many more are opting to join us.
- Robbins SE, Hanna AM. Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1987;19(2):148-156.
- Lieberman D. The story of the human body: evolution, health, and disease. Vintage; 2014.
- Hollander K, Argubi-Wollesen A, Reer R, Zech A. Comparison of minimalist footwear strategies for simulating barefoot running: a randomized crossover study.PLoS One. 2015;10(5):e0125880.
- Hollander K, Riebe D, Campe S, Braumann KM, Zech A. Effects of footwear on treadmill running biomechanics in preadolescent children. Gait Posture. 2014;40(3):381-385.
- Daoud AI, Geissler GJ, Wang F, Saretsky J, Daoud YA, Lieberman DE. Foot strike and injury rates in endurance runners: a retrospective study. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012;44(7):1325-1334.
- Pohl MB, Hamill J, Davis IS. Biomechanical and anatomic factors associated with a history of plantar fasciitis in female runners. Clin J Sport Med. 2009;19(5):372-376.
- Ruder M, Jamison ST, Tenforde A, Mulloy F, Davis IS. Relationship of Foot Strike Pattern and Landing Impacts during a Marathon. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019;51(10):2073-2079.
- Stolwijk NM, Duysens J, Louwerens JW, van de Ven YH, Keijsers NL. Flat feet, happy feet? Comparison of the dynamic plantar pressure distribution and static medial foot geometry between Malawian and Dutch adults. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57209.
- Hollander K, de Villiers JE, Sehner S, et al. Growing-up (habitually) barefoot influences the development of foot and arch morphology in children and adolescents. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):8079.
- Ridge ST, Olsen MT, Bruening DA, et al. Walking in Minimalist Shoes Is Effective for Strengthening Foot Muscles. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019;51(1):104-113.