|Minimalist Footwear vs. Maximum Comfort
Last year it was "toning" shoes with unstable rockers that were all the rage ... until lawsuits started taking aim at their unsubstantiated claims.
Lately, another industry trend that's generating a lot of buzz is "minimalist" or "barefoot" footwear like the Vibram Five Fingers® footgear shown here. They're currently considered the leader in this category, though many other prominent brands like Nike, Teva and Keen are starting to jump on the bandwagon.
Less is More?
Proponents of minimalist shoes argue that going barefoot, or barely covering the feet, is the most biomechanically natural way to go. And that may have been true when humans were hunter/gatherers on the African savannah. But what about modern men and women who spend most of their lives working and walking on concrete and pavement?
Support + Cushioning = Pain Relief Footwear
In concept, both Z-CoiL and Bio-Trek footwear are diametrically opposed to minimalism. Engineered as "pain relief footwear," these brands instead provide wearers with maximum support and shock-absorption to reduce, and even help prevent pain and injury to our feet, joints, and backs.
Al Gallegos, the inventor of Z-CoiL shoes and a long-time runner, suggests that minimalist shoes may have a role to play in water sports, or as boating shoes, but shouldn't be used as running gear. "One of the most efficient forms of running is landing on the heel," Al says, "and if you attempt that with a minimalist shoe, you would not last very long on the road."
Considering that Al is still running at 80 years of age, he may know something about going the distance in the right sorts of shoes! (He's shown here competing in the 2011 Senior Games wearing prototype Bio-Trek footwear.)
Read Z-CoiL testimonials from runners