2012

AGE OF COM­FORT M

Runner's World (UK) - - Shoe History -

in­i­mal­ism ex­ploded like a su­per­nova, but then burned out. It promised too much and failed to de­liver. Peo­ple still got in­jured. The shoes didn’t turn us all into David Rud­isha.

It ended badly. When Vi­bram was sued in the US in 2012 for false ad­ver­tis­ing, the heel-strik­ing masses were glee­ful. More than 150,000 claims were filed in a law­suit.

How­ever, while the fer­vour died, some of the ideas lived on. Shoes got lighter and sim­pler. Heel-toe drops came down, even as the pen­du­lum swung back to­ward thicker, ul­tra­cush­ioned soles. Many of the new com­pa­nies that were born in the great disruption thrived.

Com­pa­nies are us­ing ma­te­ri­als such as ex­panded ther­mo­plas­tic polyurethane foam in a bid to im­prove re­bound, creating a bouncy feel run­ners ap­pre­ci­ate, as proven by the suc­cess of Adi­das’s Boost mod­els. And de­sign­ers are creating up­pers with in­no­va­tive knits, re­defin­ing run­ning-shoe com­fort.

Per­haps soon, com­pa­nies will be able to print and knit shoes to ac­count for asym­me­tries in each run­ner’s anatomy and stride, as well as per­sonal pref­er­ences. We’re not there yet, but in the cur­rent ex­panded uni­verse of mod­els – from max-cush­ioned to min­i­mal, soft, firm or bouncy ride, tra­di­tional fit

to high-top knit, and shapes for all sorts of feet – it’s hard to imag­ine we can’t all find one to take us on hun­dreds of happy miles.

THE RW GUIDES With min­i­mal­ism dis­rupt­ing de­sign and new ma­te­ri­als chang­ing per­for­mance, the cat­e­gories that had served well for nearly three decades be­gan to feel in­ap­pro­pri­ate. So, in 2009, Mar­tyn Shorten, who had run the Run­ner’s World Shoe Lab in Port­land, Ore­gon, since 2008, be­gan a study to group run­ners us­ing easy-to-iden­tify char­ac­ter­is­tics such as body mass in­dex, years of ex­pe­ri­ence and how prone they were to in­jury.

In 2012 the re­sults of this study led to a flow­chart that opened RW Shoe Guides by ask­ing run­ners ques­tions about them­selves and their run­ning, and di­rect­ing them to ap­pro­pri­ate clus­ters of shoes ar­ranged from ‘more shoe’ to ‘less shoe’. In 2015, we re­fined the ques­tions again and added a cush­ion­ing di­men­sion to the way shoes are ar­ranged, pro­vid­ing moren­u­anced clus­ters of mod­els with sim­i­lar per­for­mance char­ac­ter­is­tics.

And at the RW Shoe Lab in Port­land, all shoes are weighed, their tops are cut off and they’re pounded and flexed by ma­chines tak­ing pre­cise mea­sure­ments.

This com­bi­na­tion of data with weart­est­ing feed­back is the most ef­fec­tive way to help you find the best shoes for you. They’re still the most im­por­tant pur­chase a run­ner will ever make.

2012 Nike re­leases the Flyknit Racer, its first shoe with a knit up­per.

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