Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Minimalist Running Shoe Fad Over? Or Not Quite...

Minimalist running shoes from Runnersworld.com

Headlines for the running community that you runners may want to know. Despite running shoes sales growing 8 % for the first quarter of 2013, sales of minimalist shoes declined more than 10 % during the same period.

This is in contrast to past few years' quarterly reports where the minimalist shoe category had the highest growth while sales in the motion control and stability segment stagnated or fell.

What drove sales of running shoes this past quarter surprisingly was motion control and stability shoes which grew > 25 % and 10 % respectively. A real reversal of sorts it seems.

An running shoe industry observer even commented that the "minimalist shoe fad is pretty much over."

So, do we take the report as the headlines suggest? That there are decreasing number of runners buying and wearing minimalist running shoes and perhaps even reverting back to the more chunky counterparts?

Well, my personal take on this is, hold your horses. A line from the running report said that "Lightweight, which remains the largest sub category, grew in the low teens." This minimalist (or barefoot) trend has definitely influenced and even resulted in running shoes becoming lighter across the board. Other design elements like low or zero drop midsoles, wide toeboxes etc have been transferred to other shoe categories. The whole running shoe market has shifted toward lighter, simpler shoes to give you, the runner a much wider choice than before.

If you recall, it wasn't that long ago when you went to a running shoe store and your options were pretty much limited to relatively heavy and chunky (> 12mm drop) shoes from brands that was classified as neutral, stability or motion control. Those days are long gone (although many medical professionals here in Singapore who have not kept in touch still insist on those categories) and the market has shifted and studies have shown that the previous model of fitting shoes were not effective.

Probably the most important issue now is how to choose your running shoes given the wide variety you now have.

By the way, I just got a minimalist/ barefoot running inspired shoe for my wife. She loves her new running shoes. A clue that "the fad" is not quite dead yet perhaps?
A pair of Merrell's for my wife

Those of you who work in the Singapore running shoe retail stores may have the latest trends probably, some comments here would be appreciated.

 * Footnote - Nike Free running shoes were not included in the minimalist shoe category as SportsOneSource (the company doing the statistics, SportsOneSource) felt that a lot of people buying Nike Free shoes are not real runners.

* Some numbers for those of you keen on statistics, most of the core running brands all had strong sales increases. Brooks and Mizuno improved about 40 %, Asics about 25 %, Saucony in the low teens and Nike in the high teens.  Under Armour running (not common here in Singapore) doubled for the year so far.

 To buck the trend, both Adidas and Reebok declined sharply in their share of running shoe sales.

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