Deconstructed: The Rise of the Minimalist Running Shoe

A history of the minimalist running shoe

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

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.

Trending on Trail Runner Magazine

Want to Know What It Takes to Finish at Western States? Just Ask Hellah Sidibe.

Find out what happened when this six-year run streaker and HOKA Global Athlete Ambassador took on an iconic ultramarathon in California's Sierra Nevada