Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Appealing to Runners, Even the Shoeless"

Interesting, but about what you'd expect from the Times:

"Those gains come not from traditional models — which add stability and cushioning to cater to a variety of gaits, and whose sales are actually down as much as 18 percent over last year — but rather from a new crop of pared-down running shoes, whose sales are up 283 percent."
That's good to hear.  I'm always happy to hear about barefoot-style running getting press, but I've got a number of bones to pick with this article...

"Now, to promote its new NB Minimus collection, New Balance is making a case to runners who may be considering going barefoot or converting to barefoot-style shoes, but still would like something more significant between the bottom of their feet and bottle caps on the trail."
Unfortunately, the ads as described in times make the barefooters sound pretty obtuse.  Odd, given that New Balance got the idea for these new shoes from barefooters, but I guess they've got to sell shoes.  Fear, uncertainty, and doubt is a Madison Avenue staple, after all.

"Advocates of barefoot running contend that modern running shoes, which over the decades have increasingly swaddled feet in cushioning, may actually cause injuries in some runners rather than prevent them."

It would be nice if the author had mentioned that some of these "advocates" are scientific researchers in the field.  But that would make NB look bad, since they still sell lots of non-minimalist shoes still.  Gotta keep the advertisers happy, and NB is increasing ad spending...

And now, drumroll please, the Obligatory Ding-bat Podiatrist Quote:

"Marybeth Crane, a podiatrist in Grapevine, Tex., who also is a marathon runner and specializes in sports medicine, told Men’s Health recently that “85 percent of my patients get injured trying to transition to the new shoes.”"
First, the New York Times couldn't find a podiatrist?  They had to quote one from Grapevine, TX, who was invterviewed by another publication?  What is the Times coming to?

Second, I've done a lot of races.  I drive around a lot.  I look at every single runner's feet to see what they're wearing.  I'm OCD.  People may be buying a lot of minimalist shoes, but very few are actually running in them.  At a recent half-marathon I ran in, I could count the number of Vibram-wearers on both hands, for instance, and that was out of 4,500 people.  If 85% of Dr. Crane's practice really did get injured running in barefoot-style shoes, then she must have a very, very small practice.  Grapevine has a population of 46,334, so if she's right, it must have the highest percentage of barefoot-style runners (and runners, for that matter) in the United States.  Color me skeptical.

Back to the Times, NB is spinning as fast as they can:

"“What consumers are looking for is not necessarily a true barefoot shoe but rather the benefits, a product that encourages a more natural gait,” said Katherine Petrecca, manager of the NB Minimus line at New Balance."
What exactly is "a true barefoot shoe", I wonder?  I honestly have no idea, since the term barefoot shoe is an oxymoron in the first place.  But if I had to guess, I would say that it looks a lot like the NB Minimus zero-drop line that they're releasing any day now.  Unlike the current Minimus mentioned in the Times, which features a cushioned heel that prevents a "more natural gait", the new model does away with the heel, becoming a truly barefoot-style shoe.

They look nice, too.  I like NB, but it would be nice if they had a little more respect for the barefoot runners who are their partners in this revolution, and the ones most likely to buy their new shoes for the winter shod running season. :)