by Bill “Guru of Shoe” Lorenz
In the ten or so years I’ve been in the running shoe business, I’ve seen trends come and go, shoe technology evolve, and inevitably, prices go up. Trends will continue and new ones will emerge, technology will evolve, and prices will continue to rise. Some of these changes are significant improvements and give us "21st century shoes."
Many people resist change: I frequently hear the lament “Why did they have to change my favorite shoe?” That’s just the nature of a competitive industry. Like the highly competitive auto and electronics industries, innovation and evolution drive the shoe brands to continually look for ways to improve their offerings. Each brand keeps a keen eye on the competition and the trends that seem to be catching on with the running public.
So what are the new big things in the running industry?
21st Century Shoes Get Down to Race Weight
Every brand continues to look for ways to cut weight at the same time keeping their shoes cushy and comfortable. Look at the upper portion of just about any current model of running shoe and compare it to a similar model from a few years ago. One thing you are certain to notice is fewer stitches.
Assembling shoes on a sewing machine has largely been replaced with bonding. Flexible polymers have replaced stitched-on overlays to form the exoskeleton (support elements) of the shoe. The polymers are bonded to the mesh, simplifying the assembly process, lightening the shoe, and helping create a more second sock like feel.
21st Century Shoes Develop Their Flexibility
Shoes I refer to as 21st century shoes are also significantly more flexible, not just in the fore-foot, but extending through the entire length of the shoe. Flexibility gives the shoe a more natural feel and also allows the foot to work the way it was intended. A traditional shoe is typically very stiff through the midfoot, acting like a temporary cast on the foot.
By allowing the foot to flex naturally, muscles in the foot are put back to work the way they were intended. Foot muscles that work are stronger are less likely to become injured.
21st Century Shoes Improve Technique
21st century shoes are also typically less built up in the heel than conventional shoes, a trend and discussion brought about by minimalist shoes. This is probably the most significant development in years.
Not only have shoes evolved, but much more emphasis has been placed on the possibility that poor technique (particularly over-striding and heel striking) may be causing injury, more so than just shoes. We’ve been using our Dartfish Video Analysis System in our retail store as much as an educational tool as an analysis tool. Showing a runner their poor technique has benefitted countless runners and walkers. Being able to show someone what they are doing wrong (and offering suggestions on how to improve their technique) has been extremely effective in helping our customers run and walk pain and injury free.
Forefront of Technology
Here at Kyle’s Bikes, we have been at the forefront of embracing 21st century shoe technology and philosophy. The flexible, lower profile models we stock have become our best sellers for a reason: they benefit just about everyone who tries them, and many runners find them extremely comfortable. However, we still stock a full selection of conventional shoes, because not everyone needs or wants the features of a low profile shoe. If you come visit us, be assured that we will use our years of shoe fitting experience and knowledge of the most up-to-date information to help you select the best, most appropriate, and most comfortable shoes.