Although many would say "The Book" has been a primary driving force behind the burgeoning minimalist and "barefoot" movement, the fact of the matter is that modern-day running shoes have endured many trends over the years--from light and basic to big and clunky and everything in between. When you look at what many runners especially in the 1970s and even 1980s wore (pretty low-profile racing flats but nothing like Vibrams), what folks wore in the 1990s and early 2000s (big, clunky shoes) and what's hot these days (Vibrams and barefoot running), you could easily argue that what we're experiencing now is really "minimalism 2.0 on steroids."
|The Bondi B's|
No matter what Hoka lovers may say, the minimalists and barefooters out there are undeterred, and God bless them for it. Maybe they're the lucky ones and those of us who wear Hokas are the less fortunate...or even unenlightened. Many of the minimalists contend that we have been sold a bill of goods by the big shoe companies (aka "Big Shoe") that want us to believe more support is better and will help prevent injury. Alas, some of these same big shoe companies have recently begun adding minimalist products to their lines, only feeding the confusion as to what's best for the runner. We are, the minimalists say, born to run barefooted, and so why impede the natural movement of the foot with tanks like Hokas?
For whatever it's worth, here's what I think: We weren't born to run per se. We were born to be active and work hard for what we need. It could be said that running was to "prehistoric" beings a means to an end. In "prehistoric" times, when there weren't King Soopers and Safeways around every rock, we put a lot of physical effort into hunting and gathering...because our lives depended on it. Meat was a big deal; you had to work super hard to kill an animal, sometimes running dozens of miles until the exhausted animal collapsed and died. But that was only part of the effort. You had to work almost just as hard bringing the bounty back to your loved ones and defending your catch from invaders. And animals weren't just a source of food; furs and hides were used for clothing. Most of the time, you ate vegetarian fare--and it sufficed. And when you weren't eating, you worried about things like fortifying your shelter, staying warm (or cool), protecting your family and friends, finding clean water, etc. All of that required some level of activity, including running and hiking.
But our ancestors didn't run for fitness. If a "caveman" ran 20, 30 or 40 miles, it wasn't training; it was to chase down a deer, evade capture, maybe deliver a message or get back home. And those who did the running were usually the best athletes, i.e., the ones who were the most physiologically gifted. No one even knew what fitness in the modern sense was back then. Being fit was part and parcel of survival; the best athletes reigned supreme and brought home the bacon. Also, they didn't have paved roads like we do. Their pursuits took them across pastures, meadows and calderas, up and down mountains, along treacherous ridges, and over downed trees and big rocks (all of which the Jemez 50M and Hardrock 100 deliver). Well-groomed trails were rare. Their feet, unlike ours today, were conditioned from childbirth to withstand tremendous punishment and were strong in muscle and connective tissue. Our feet today are none of that, in large part because we've been wearing supportive shoes since birth, sitting down a lot, driving our cars to King Soopers for food instead of chasing down and/or picking our grub, living in relatively low-maintenance shelters, etc.
All of that said, no one really knows for sure whether minimalism today is a good or bad thing, or even the "natural way." People who run in Vibrams, New Balance's line of minimalist trail shoes, and the like swear by them. By the same token, people who run in Hokas believe their way is the best way (especially for older runners). So essentially what shoes you wear, if you even choose to wear shoes, is a matter of personal preference. Me? My preference is Hokas, thank you very much.
And now let's enjoy an awesome tune that always gets me fired up and ready to get 'er done.