OK, barefoot runners, your moment as The Next Big Thing in running shoes is officially over. You had a great run (see what I did there?) but the pendulum has swung back, as it inevitably does, and “barely there” is giving way to “maximal cushioning” as the next intriguing idea in helping us all get some exercise without destroying our legs.
The shoes look like modern, colorful versions of your grandmother’s orthopedic footwear, and some have called them clown shoes. But make no mistake, at least five companies — including industry behemoth Nike, and two other members of the big seven, Brooks and New Balance –have recently introduced shoes with soles that are perhaps 3o percent thicker than those on traditional running shoes. And they are much, much softer than the “minimalist” and “barefoot” shoes that have dominated the conversation in recent years.
The newcomers join Hoka One One, the company that first started marketing extra-cushioned shoes in 2010. The company’s president, Jim Van Dine, calls the design “the most dramatic advance in running footwear in 30 years,” citing the new lightweight foam in the sole and the shoe’s geometry.