Minimal Schminimal – Barefoot Fad On Way Out?

Every shoe has its place, and for some that place is on your feet as you cross cold tiled floors to hit the bathroom at 3 in the morning. The last pair of Vibrams that I saw as I was leaving Boulder, Colorado were these nasty suede skin-coloured numbers on a hipster ordering a beer at the Laughing Goat on Pearl Street. How appropriate, I thought, considering that about a mile further down that same historic street, The Boulder Running Company is selling maybe 6 pairs a month of these toilet-shufflers, while at the same time selling 200-300 pairs of Hoka One One Mafate, Bondi, and Stinsons.

Even as a recent addition to the Hoka catalogue, I ran briefly on the weekend in Moab with a dude who’s already on his second pair of Stinsons. He got about 450 miles (only 700km) out of his first pair before they felt flat. This is because they use probably the softest EVA in the Hoka workshop, but he still went and got 2 more pairs. It seems the thing thata lot of people (or maybe a small group of loud people) don’t get is that Hoka are trying to harness and develop new technologies in a different way. There may be some durability issues that are being addressed gradually as the shoe evolves, but the benefits – for many people at least – radically outweigh their reservations. And with what seem to be tougher outsoles coming on the 2012 lines, this issue will diminish in time.

Early adopters and outliers, though, will likely continue to have a blast, as fencesitters gripe and moan. Ha! To them I say that Hoka aren’t for everyone, just like downhill skiing, iPhones, and Kanye West.

4 Responses to Minimal Schminimal – Barefoot Fad On Way Out?

  1. Marcus says:

    Do need to call you out on the lack of supportive evidence on the stats re sales of VFF v Hoka v other brands. I don’t care if VFF are not selling slippers any more, they are not a credible trail running shoe in my book anyway as I can’t see someone winning GNW100 in them anytime soon. Other minimal shoes brands ARE growing rapidly. I have it on good authority that companies such as BRC sell truck loads of other brands that make a complete range of minimal and “normal” shoes and this is their bread and butter in terms of regular repeat sales.

    I don’t see Asics, Nike, NB, Inov8 or Brooks going out of business anytime soon. I agree with you that VFF can go to the wall as they look even more ridiculous than your clown shoes : ) As you know from our site we love to rate a shoe based on its ability to at the very least make it as a shopping shoe, VFF won’t be getting a trip to the 7 Eleven anytime soon !

    On a final note, if the durability is going to be addressed surely this will impact on the cushioning ? Or is Hoka going to be bending the rules of physics yet again.

    Thoughts ?


    Marcus @Ultra168

    • hokaau says:

      Yes, minimal shoes are growing rapidly, haven’t said otherwise. Also haven’t forecast the demise of any major brands, but also haven’t yet seen an Asics minimalist shoe. Am seeing an increasing number of people using minimalist shoes as part of their toolkit rather than as a banner to wave as part of their running cult. The idea of the Barefoot Movement does have some freakishly religious overtones which don’t necessarily improve running performance in the way that a less zealous approach to footwear seems to, so hola evolution and adios dogma.

      As has been pointed out consistently by everyone who has thought about it. the real star of Born To Run, Scott Jurek, spent the entire book in a chunky fast pair of real shoes.

      And yes, the Evo line is coming early next year. I think you’re exaggerating your low mileage on the shoes for the tread impact you’re describing, but as you know leading technologies and early adoption are a mix of costs and benefits. More durable rubber on some outsoles early 2012. And, as I said, yes some people are clocking 650km, some are clocking 950km. Surely your minimal training has developed a gait more efficient than one that would only get 300km out of a pair of Bondi B’s?

      : )

      • Marcus says:

        Always said I have been very confused over this shoe. Go back to my original review, couldn’t come to terms with the benefits v loss of the ability to get up on my toes. Still retain this opinion. As my training has really honed into GNW100 over the last few weeks the shoe has become sidelined as this is not my shoe of choice for this race as they haven’t got the grip to survive the perils of The Basin.

        I run like a duck at the best of times and the shoe exaggerates this, running in minimal shoes has not changed my mid/fore foot striking that much, but the Hoka’s do make you relax more when downhilling so heel strike does reoccur. In addition, I am shifting 85kgs and so I imagine softer EVA will always deform/degrade more quickly. Don’t get me wrong, all shoes wear, my Talons barely last 300kms if I run on fire trail too much but at less than $100 a pair from o/s they are great value. (Disclosure – My Bondi B’s were provided gratis by Hoka so I am yet to dip into my own pocket). If the new EVO does improve durability will cushioning be compromised ?

        All major brands part from ASICS (who don’t make a minimal shoe) are reporting unprecedented growth in the minimal sector. So if barefoot running, i.e. no shoes at all is dead, then so be it. VFF through to Nike 3.0 all qualify as minimal shoes, and whilst again we both agree VFF are overpriced tosh, Nike is selling more 3.0’s than ever before. In fact the latest forums suggest they are struggling to evolve the product offering.

        Just my thoughts and opinions which may or may not be shared by others.

  2. Brent says:

    Asics do make a minimalist shoe, its not coming to Australia, the designers didn’t want to make it. The marketers did. Long live Hoka.

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