The Evolution of Running Shoes in the Last Decade

The last decade has seen an explosion of the running shoe market, generating a continuous demand from amateurs and professionals looking for the shoe that can offer the best performance during the athletic act of running.

In addition to the technical evolution of materials, construction, production and design of each manufacturer, the general concept of the shoe has gradually changed over the last decade.

Around 2010 the focus of the shoe was the return to the race to “free foot” with the so-called minimalist shoes (maximum grip, lightness of the shoe, minimum drop, no cushioning system or support during the race) whose purpose was to simulate a race to “barefoot” to give benefits in terms of freedom of movement, muscle activation, muscle strengthening, proprioception, etc..
Then from 2014-2015 the concept of the running shoe was “extreme” with the birth of the maximalist shoe.

Contrary to the minimalist shoe, the maximalist shoe had an important structure with an oversized midsole to offer the maximum cushioning effect and shock absorber during the whole running phase.

Between 2016-2018 we had a very strong turn on the idea of the shoe. We have focused a lot on the effect of maximum cushioning by reducing, as opposed to the maximalist, the thickness of the midsole with materials that could offer the runner an effect “extra cushioning” to minimize the resulting forces that are generated during the phase of first support limiting the risk of injury and accidents.
Finally, the last few years have seen a new upgrade. The basic concept is no longer to dissipate as much as possible the forces of impact during the first phase of contact with the sole, but to accumulate this energy developed, and transfer it to the runner in the push phase in order to determine a more efficient and less energy-intensive run. For this reason, carbon fiber plates have been inserted inside the midsole to allow a “rebound” effect and transfer to the runner the best energy return during the propulsion phase.
The choice of the ideal shoe, however, always remains a difficult subject for every single runner. The important thing to understand is that regardless of the brand or the aesthetics of the shoe, there is no perfect shoe. There is a shoe that is closest to the needs of each individual runner in terms of type of run, pattern, km, weight, cadence … parameters that can be addressed and analyzed only with an in-depth study for each runner carried out by competent personnel ready to offer the best ad hoc solution.

Take for example the shoe of the record man Eliud Kipchoge:

This type of shoe is designed for an agile runner with minimal ground contact timing, low body weight, high cadence, and “record man” performance. Using this shoe for a runner with a heavy weight, who runs 20km a week, with a low cadence, slow pattern, it is obvious that in terms of performance, the shoe will not be adequate for that type of runner because it will never offer him the performance that that type of athlete or runner requires based on his individual characteristics.

In conclusion, relying on the right professional for a proper assessment of foot support and running can be an additional weapon in the choice of appropriate footwear to optimize and improve the athletic performance of each individual runner.