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Deconstructed: The Rise of the Minimalist Running Shoe

A history of the minimalist running shoe

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1960: New Balance introduces the Trackster, generally recognized as the first shoe seriously designed as a daily running shoe.

[sidebar hed=”See Also: You Don’t Know How to Run”] Inside the Minimalist Running Movement[/sidebar][sidebar hed=”Making the Switch”] Scott Douglas weights the pros and cons of making the switch to minimalism
[/sidebar][sidebar hed=”The Minimalism Starter Kit”] Easing into the barefoot revolution[/sidebar]

September 1960: Abebe Bikila (pictured) wins the Olympic marathon barefoot.

1976: Brooks introduces the Vantage, the first running shoe with an EVA midsole and “pronation control,” a big step toward what conventional running shoes look like today.

1977: Jim Fixx’s Complete Book of Running tops the New York Times bestseller list; Fixx wears Onitsuka Tiger racing flats on the cover.

1993–95: Tarahumara Indians win the Leadville 100-miler in Colorado wearing handmade sandals.

2004: Nike introduces the Free as a “training tool” to strengthen the feet and lower legs, an acknowledgment that most running shoes of the time provided no such benefits.

2009: Chris McDougall’s Born to Run becomes a bestseller, ushering the nascent minimalism movement into the mainstream.

2010: Just four years after the shoe was introduced, Vibram FiveFingers account for 2 percent of running-shoe sales.

January 2010: Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman publishes research in Nature supporting the idea that conventional running shoes alter “natural” running mechanics.

May 2010: The backlash begins. The Hoka One One, a so-called maximalist running shoe with an eye-poppingly oversize midsole, debuts.

January 2012: Meb Keflezighi wins the Olympic marathon trials in Skechers, one of dozens of mainstream brands now making minimalist shoes.

March 2012: A class action is filed against Vibram for deceptive claims about the health benefits of its FiveFingers shoes.

December 2012: Former Vibram CEO Tony Post launches a line of second-generation minimalist shoes, ToPo.