The next big thing in running shoes

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.

Yesterday, we were introduced to some new shoes we can expect to see in 2014. These introductions pointed us toward what may be the next trend in running shoes. It looks like the next big thing will be relatively lightweight, highly cushioned shoes.

Here are a couple promotional images of the upcoming Brooks Transcend:



So what’s going on here? We go from "barefoot" shoes to shoes with about as much cushioning as you could imagine putting in a shoe. I see two things going on that kind of fit together to make this a fairly unsurprising event.

First, the pendulum effect. The market went to an extreme with Vibram FiveFingers and similar shoes with little or, in some cases, no midsole at all. Those shoes worked for some people but others got hurt. Now, the market is going to go to the other extreme.

Second, much like Vibram gained enough market share to catch the eye of the more mainstream brands and set the minimalist trend on its way, a brand is doing the same in this market. Hoka is a brand I had never heard of until somewhat recently but it’s doing just what Vibram did. It came to market with a shoe that is distinctively different than any other shoe out there right now, much in the same way Vibram did. It’s gaining a base of fans who swear by it as the one shoe that works for them, much in the same way Vibram did. Now, mainstream manufacturers are beginning to take a page from the Hoka playbook, much in the same way they did with Vibram.

So what should we make of this new trend? Probably about the same as we should make of the minimalist trend. It will probably last a relatively short time, during which great claims will be made. Many people will try the shoes, they will work for some but they will not for others. For some, it will become like a religion and they will swear these are the shoes everyone should be using and that those who had problems with the shoes were just not doing it right. For some, it will become just the opposite. They will say people are harming themselves by even trying those shoes. The truth will be somewhere in the middle. Major brands will jump on the bandwagon and rush new shoes to market. They will for the most part be lagging, though, and come to market mostly at the end of the rush.

In the end, I hope – just as I do with the minimal market – that this will become a new niche segment of the overall shoe market. Some people will be helped by shoes like these and they should be available for these people. Others will find their corner of the market.

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