The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy left the following comment that made me think about my own shoe philosophy:
I wish more companies were like Merrell. Seems like a lot of minimal shoe companies are making shoes with popularity instead of function in mind. I'm seeing a lot of "transition" shoes, the concept of which is completely ridiculous. A shoe that will get you from one shoe to another? Way to invent a problem and then provide a solution shoe companies.A barefoot running purist will likely point out that shoes like the New Balance Minimus Trail are merely reduced shoes, not truly minimalist.
Apart from Merrell, I see the best new minimal shoes coming from startup companies. Altra, Skora, and ZEM will have the best shoes because they don’t have significant investment in a traditional product line.
That's fine. I concede that, given its lack of heel elevation relative to the toe box, the Trail Glove is more minimal than the NB MT10. I'm even happy to say that the Minimus Trail should be called a "reduced" shoe rather than a minimal one.
Call the Minimus Trail a fancy slipper if you want. It's still really comfortable for me to wear while running on roads or trails. And, it brings me a couple millimeters closer to practicing better running form.
Moreover, the Minimus Trail's outsole somehow gives me an even greater sense of the ground beneath my feet than my softer f-lite 230s. And, that proprioceptive quality encourages me to add more barefoot training to my running routine in the future.
So, if it weren't for reduced shoes like the NB Minimus Trail in my closet, would I be interested in training barefoot in order to attain better running form? I don't think so.
Just like I'd love to convert to a vegan diet or build a sustainable house, barefoot running is an ideal that's not practically achieved all at once, at least for me. I need to take many steps (pun intended) toward better running form.
I like to pretend that my NB Minimus Trail shoes were made by a different company, not the same New Balance that markets those freakish Truebalance toning shoes. But, New Balance, that behemoth of a business, had the money, ambition, and resources to develop a shoe like the Minimus on a grand scale before the other major companies did. (Yeah, whatever, Nike Free)
And, while their Minimus team certainly made some compromises relative to the minimal ideal, they created a minimal-ish shoe that garnered more attention than offerings from true minimalist shoe companies like the ones mentioned in Barefoot Guy's comment quoted above. I don't see ads for Alta on the Runner's World website. But, the Minimus line is all over the place there. And, I believe, that attention helps redefine the concept of minimal shoes for the general public, makes "minimal running" more accessible.
So, if more curious runners are open to trying something like the Minimus Trail, a shoe that cushions the whole-hog approach to barefoot running, then more runners will get a comfortable sense of barefoot running. And, just as the Minimus Trail makes me feel more confident in the concept of running without shoes, I imagine it would do the same for many other runners out there.
Thus, there is a need for reduced shoes. They're important, because, as Jason mentions in the comment area of his article, they give "people who are generally scared to go zero drop", runners who don't want to put away their $120 stability shoes forever, a taste of how fun and beneficial proper running form can be.
While there are certainly poor decisions being made by some companies jumping on the natural-slash-minimalist-shoe bandwagon (I mean, this is a far cry from the Minimus Trail, don't you think?), we have tons of shoe analysts on the web to help the discerning runner sort through the marketing hype and find the right way to achieve better running form. And, that's the goal of barefoot running, right: Better form?