Minimalist, Maximalist or Somewhere In-between?

Running Shoes

Now I love a bit of shoe porn as much as the next person.  And when I’m feeling flush I’m straight off to buy the latest model/colour/brand that takes my fancy, yes I probably do have more running shoes than “normal” shoes – and that certainly isn’t appreciated by the guys here in Italy, but I’m a runner, what can I do?

But joking aside, unless you have you found your one true love and are never tempted to stray to another brand, make or model, then the choice of running shoes can be overwhelming.  Are you an overpronator, underpronator or neutral? Do you have a forefoot, midfoot or heel strike? A flat or medium arch?

Then there are the two mutually-exclusive and often very vocal camps made up of barefoot or minimalist runners versus the fans of the cushioned (and now maximally cushioned) shoes.  Vibram suffered a very public dressing down and considerable fine for advertising unproven benefits of their Five Finger brand, yet for every article I’ve seen celebrating the fact, I’ve seen another defending them and proclaiming their benefits. Ross Tucker of published an interesting article about this very phenomenon and our tendency to swing from one extreme to another.

So what should we do? I would certainly go to a specialised running store for advice.  Usually the sales assistants are runners themselves, they have an in-depth knowledge of the products that they are selling and the differences between them.  Certain retailers even permit you to test shoes and return them within a set period if you’re not happy with them.

Then it comes down to comfort, fit and of course budget.  And we’re all different.  That’s why there is no definitive right and wrong shoe (this is becoming a familiar theme right, we’re all different and so need to be treated as individuals).  In my personal experience, after several years of running in corrective shoes for overpronation, following a spate of niggles and minor injuries, my local running store suggested I switch to neutral shoes.  I haven’t had a problem since, but in the intervening years I have also worked hard on my running technique, strength and conditioning exercises, I probably weigh less too.

So what’s the answer? Try a few pairs, take advice, go for the ones that feel right.  And sure, try out each and every one of the new technologies that the shoe manufacturers develop if you want to – but don’t forget that there are many other factors that have as big or even greater impact on performance and injury prevention.


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