It was just a few years ago that runners everywhere were jumping on to the minimalist running craze, going to such extremes as wearing shoes built with minimal features to glove-like products featuring individual toe-holes. Some runners even reverted back to running barefoot, building up their feet for rigorous running over uneven terrain.
But now that research has debunked some health benefits of barefoot and minimalist running, we appear to be swinging back in a whole new direction -- and arriving at a new extreme. New running shoes featuring an unprecedented array of support and cushioning features are designed to give runners the greatest degree of assistance possible.
File these under a new trend: "Maximalist" running.
These shoes aren't just a gimmick or a product on the periphery. As reported in The New York Times, Olympic medalist Leo Manzano swears that maximalist running footwear cured his feet of chronic plantar fasciitis after about one week.
"They're not your normal shoe, but I actually think they're better than normal," Manzano told the NYT. "When I first saw them, because they're so big, I thought they'd be heavy. But they're incredibly light. My legs felt really fresh after a long run in them. It's like running on a cloud."
The shoes, which come from a brand called Hoka One One, range in price from $130 to $170. Last year, the company sold 550,000 pairs.
"I run 70 to 80 miles a week, which is extreme, and I was suffering from extreme issues," Manzano said. "So I need extreme support."
Thanks to the evidence of risk in minimalist running footwear, accentuated by a lawsuit filed against minimalist shoemaker Vibram, Hoka One One has a great market opportunity to sell a lot of shoes in the United States while leading a reversal of running trends.
There's no evidence that maximalist shoes are any safer or more efficient, but Hoka One One also refuses to make any such claims.
Anecdotal evidence like Manzano's testimony will have to do for now, but the true benefits -- or lack thereof -- of maximalist shoes will be determined over time.