I have worked on this post for a couple of weeks now and I just want to add my two cents to this discussion.
What I have I learned about the pendulum?
I have been a running shoe geek since the late 1970’s, so I have seen many different styles, ideas and designs come and go in the running shoe industry, and tried more than a few of them.
Some of these ideas were ingenious, some were dumb, some worked for me, others did not, but it seemed there was always something new and different in the running shoe world for runners to drool about or try.
Then for about a decade (at the end of the 90’s) progress or innovation in running shoes seemed to stagnate, the swings of the pendulum were less pronounced and running shoes all seemed to look about the same and could be lumped into racing flats, traditional trainers and motion control categories, with an odd light-weight trainer or trail running shoe gaining popularity every once in a while.
We thought we were or at least we were told that we were happy with our running shoes, after all every year the running shoe magazines showed the newest and greatest running shoes.
Then “Born to Run” happened.
In my opinion and many others, this was the tipping point and when many runners began to question whether the running shoes we were running in, were the best for us or not.
Over the next few years there were new running shoe companies, old giants and even non running shoe companies creating running shoes that were different from what most of us thought running shoes were supposed to be.
Many, hell most of them were not anything I would/could run in, but they were definitely different and were challenging the status quo. They shook up the running shoe industry and the high-profile manufacturers had to move beyond their old traditional designs or get left behind. Some in my opinion are still struggling with this.
The pendulum started swinging again and the edges were getting further and further from the center and the designs grew riskier and riskier.
For a while it seemed that everything I read was about minimalism and how it could solve all your running problems. Even though many (not all) of these claims have been proved to be little more than marketing hype, than of real benefit to the majority of recreational runners.
Hell I even got on the minimalist running shoe bandwagon here and here. I quickly found that low stack height, zero drop, very little cushioning, extremely light-weight – the true minimalist running shoes do not work for me.
However, my foray into minimalist shoes did move me away from the so-called traditional trainer or heavy motion control, narrow toed shoes that specialty running shops recommended that I should be running in – to a medium drop, lighter-weight cushioned trainers.
Pendulum Swing to Maximalism
Now the pendulum is beginning to swing in the other direction towards maximalism, those running shoes which have more, hell let’s be honest mountains of cushioning and high stack heights.
At least that is what is being reported in the media and social media places where I hang out. Although I wonder just how many recreational runners are jumping on this bandwagon or not. However, many of the running shoe companies are beating the maximalism drum loudly as the next best thing.
Due to my personal preferences, I do not find this style of running shoe comfortable to run in. However, it does not mean that I will not ever use them, but they do not meet a need for me at this time.
What bothers me
Is when running shoe evangelists or even their detractors become dogmatic and do not let go of their positions or continue to push a personal agenda irregardless of the studies, evidence, changes in opinions or personal preferences of the other runners they are spouting their version of their running shoe gospel to.
You know those who believe that their “ism” is the only correct answer to what to wear when running and preach their “ism” message to all runners, without regard to whether someone else has different needs or wants from their running shoes. Then when they get push-back or get into discussions with a different evangelist, they aggressively defend their “ism” and feel the need to attack or ridicule other “isms” to justify their choices. From what I have seen it doesn’t matter if the evangelist is a supporter of minimalism, maximalism, traditionalism, motion controlism, dropism, rockerism, etc.
Then heaven forbid if you should ever change your mind or learn more about one of the “isms” that cause you to move away from a position that you previously held. Then you are ridiculed, reviled or challenged from both ends of the spectrum and others who might hold a personal reason to do so.
Let’s face it different runners have different needs or wants from their running shoes and in my opinion, no single “ism” that is the right style for every runner or even right for every running situation. Also as we learn more about what works for us, we do change our thoughts and beliefs regarding what running shoes we prefer to use. It is a natural result of trying new and different things versus becoming dogmatic or defensive in our approach to what we use for running shoes.
At least that is what my experience has been.
The reality is that
When I started writing this post, I was very negative about all the different swings that the running shoe industry seems to have, while chasing the next big thing in running shoes, especially how divisive it tends to become in some sections of the running community.
However, the more I thought about it, the more my attitude/opinion towards these swings of the pendulum changed.
From my view as a recreational runner, the pendulum needs to keep swinging wildly, it keeps the status quo at away. I know that some of the new designs will not work, but some/many of the designs from the 80’s didn’t work either and we do not know until we try, whether these new styles or designs will work or not.
There are companies out there on the edges, trying some amazingly different ideas: Hoka, Adidas, Topo, Skechers, Altra, Mizuno, Pearl Izumi, Skechers, Nike and so on. Yes, we/I make fun of some of the more extreme designs and no I will not be wearing some styles of running shoes (Springblade, Vibram, Hoka, etc.) they are too far on the edge for me, but they are part of the industry’s attempts to move forward and try new and different things in running shoes – which is a good thing for all runners.
It doesn’t matter if you like more traditional, motion control, minimalist, maximalist, split toe, light-weight trainers, racing flats, zero drop, medium drop or whatever works best for your style of running, there is now probably a brand/style (more likely multiple ones) that will meet your running needs.
It will be interesting to see what the next 10 years of advances in running shoes will be and how wildly the pendulum will swing during those years. Actually I am looking forward to it and can’t wait to see what happens.
However, just because it works for you, does not mean that will work the same for others, so it does not cost us anything to be respectful of those who do not share your enthusiasm for a particular running shoe style. Just something to think about.