Poll: 5 Footwear Trends for 2011, Which One(s) Have You Tried?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  46 comments   :  17,428 Views

Having been a member of the running community for over five years now, I have seen a number of new footwear trends picking up speed. Last month the American College of Sports Medicine released its top five footwear trends for 2011. Everything from barefoot running, to minimalist shoes, to post-running recovery shoes, even shoes endorsed by Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke promising us a more toned back side just by lacing up these shaper shoes made the list, not to mention the growing trend of wearing compression socks both during one's run and for recovery. Some of these trends I have already incorporated into my running, while those I have not, I will leave for others to try.

So where do you drawn the line as to what footwear trend you should try and what trends are better left on the store shelf?

Barefoot Running

Barefoot running is one trend that has continued to gain momentum over the years, especially with the publication of Christopher McDougall's best seller Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen in 2009. The book chronicles Mr. McDougall's own transition from wearing the ever popular cushioned running shoe to running barefoot in an attempt to overcome injury issues. Even running publications such as Runner's World Magazine and Running Times Magazine have covered this topic at length and not without controversy.

If you were to talk with any runner today most have already formed an opinion on the topic. I will admit that I have never even considered running without shoes even after reading all the data supporting doing so. As much information as I have read supporting barefoot running, there is equal data supporting the wearing of shoes.

Unfortunately the past several years, shoes have unfairly received a bad rap when it comes to running injuries. The causes of running injuries are complex and cannot always be blamed on the footwear one chooses. Injuries may be related to muscle imbalances anywhere up or down the kinetic chain. They can also be exacerbated by a runner's need to push through a minor issue in fear that taking time off from training will cause them to backslide. Injuries can also be caused from inadequate recovery between runs, in other words, running too much before the body has had time to adapt. Remember, runners make the adaptation to running when they are not running, not during the actual time they are running which is why recovery is just as important to your training as running itself.

Injury prevention is about training smarter. It's about allowing time for your body to adapt to the demands of the sport. It's about allowing enough recovery time between runs so that the body's inflammation can lessen before the next run. It's about developing muscle balance via strength training and cross training. It's also about following a healthy diet that promotes proper muscle repair and recovery. So as you can see, shoes are just one piece of a very complex puzzle.

With that being said, I have no issues for those wanting to try running without shoes. Barefoot running has been shown to promote some positive outcomes, such as encouraging one to land on the whole foot versus the heel, and in doing so it lessens the braking effect with each foot plant. Running without shoes has also been shown to strengthen the connective tissues and muscles in the foot. It also encourages one to shorten his/her stride, which may lessen the risk for developing shin splints. And lastly, barefoot running encourages one to land more softly with each footstrike which may help promote a faster turnover rate.

While all this may sound quite enticing, I like to say, 'if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it.' In other words, if the shoes you are running in are comfortable and you have not had any issues then why change. According to many running experts, comfort is the most important factor in choosing the proper running footwear. However, if you still want to give barefoot running a try, do your research and talk with those who have made the transition and then slowly integrate into this way of running. The calf muscles are stressed more so than when wearing shoes, so you do not want to rush the process. And most importantly remember, "we are all an experiment of one" meaning what works for others, may or may not work for you. If you give barefoot running a try and it does not work, you are not a failure. It just means you may need more shoe to run.

Minimalist Shoes

Minimalist shoes are the intermediary between barefoot running and the more popular cushioned running shoe. These shoes provide more support than running without shoes, but less support than your standard cushioned running shoe. And it seems like every major running shoe manufacturer is jumping on the minimalist shoe bandwagon--from Nike's Free, to the ever-popular Vibram FiveFingers to my all-time favorite, the Newton Running Shoe.

I made the transition from a cushioned running shoe three years ago when my running coach suggested I give the Newton Motion shoes a try after he made the switch himself. It took me about six weeks to transition into the shoes, but I have never regretted doing so. I feel these shoes are the best shoes for me, which is what matters most to me. But be forewarn, minimalist shoes, like barefoot running, is not for everyone. They are not a cure-all for preventing running injuries.

Toning Shoes

My first exposure with toning shoes was over five years ago when I saw one of my fellow gym goers wearing the MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology) shoes on the StairMaster Mill. I must say I was quite intrigued by the design of the shoe and the claims the company made regarding the promise of better posture and less knee, back and hip pain. The only reason I did not buy into the trend was the hefty price tag attached to the shoes, which at that time was well over $200.

However, when Sketchers and Reebok introduced their own versions of toning shoes a few years ago, I did reconsider giving these shoes a try. After doing a little bit of research, I found these shoes did not have the scientific proof to back up the claims the companies made in regard to "muscle activation and exercise response" when wearing these shoes. In an independent study published by the American Council on Exercise there is "no outside scientific evidence to indicate that the toning shoes offer any enhanced fitness benefits over traditional sneakers, despite studies cited by manufacturers seemingly "proving" the toning shoes’ effectiveness."

On a positive note, researchers do point out that if these shoes encourage one to become more active, than wearing them may not be such a bad thing. Please note though, that just like a runner needs time to transition from a cushioned running shoe to a minimalist shoe, same is true for transitioning into these shoes. And remember a shoe should never be a replacement for squats and lunges when it comes to building stronger glutes, hamstrings and calves.

Recovery Shoes

If you are frequent visitor to races or if you participate in them yourself you may have noticed that one of the first thing a runner longs to do after crossing the finish line and filling up on food and water is to remove his/her running shoes in exchange for the growing popular sports sandal. Having a sandal to slide into allows for your feet, ligaments, tendons and muscles to begin the relaxation and recovery process.

However, any ol' flip-flop won't do. According to an article published in the December 2009 issue of Running Times Magazine "the best recovery sandal features: a cushioned footbed that provides heel-to-toe contact between the foot and the ground, a cupped heel area to cradle the heel bone, a modest arch contour to comfort the midfoot area, and an upper that attaches loosely to the foot, be it a thong or a broad strap over the top of the instep."

While I have never tried these shoes myself, I do know many of my running friends who swear by them. And for under $40, it may be something I will consider adding to my running footwear collection. After all, wearing your running shoes just for running and not walking around post race may allow a longer time for wear on the road.

Compression Socks/Sleeves

I was first introduced to compression socks last summer when I was in Seattle to run the Rock N Roll Half Marathon. One of my dear friends who was an advocate of wearing them for post race recovery, allowed me to give them a try. After showering, I wore the compression socks for the rest of the afternoon. I was surprised at how energized my legs felt after running my half marathon and walking miles through the streets of Seattle.

While I have seen some runners wearing compression socks during an actual race, I have not done so myself. Having tried wearing them during a few long, slow distance training runs, I found that my calves could not relax causing extreme muscle cramping. The minute I took them off I did just fine which told me that they aren't good for me to wear during my runs. But one thing is for certain, I will continue to wear them as part of my post run recovery routine.

Much like T.E.D. (Thrombo-Embolic Deterrent) hose used in post-surgical recovery to help with swelling and blood flow, the same principles apply to compression socks. The premise behind wearing compression socks is to help promote faster lactate recovery post-run while increasing blood flow to the extremities. In fact studies have shown they actually increase one's recovery time which allows one to get back to running in a little faster time period.

Now that you know a little more about the footwear trends for 2011, what trends have you tried or would be willing to try in the upcoming months ahead?

Which footwear trend have you tried or would be most anxious to try in the upcoming months?

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  • 46
    I bought Sketcher Toning Shoes and found that I walk with my right foot turned in slightly and these shoes made it worse so I quite wearing them. I'm back to good ol' Nike running shoes for my power walking. The minimal shoes sound interesting though. - 11/6/2011   12:38:00 PM
  • 45
    Viva Vibram FiveFingers! I made the switch and you can bet that I'm never going back. I use them for running, CrossFit, and even walking the dog! - 8/3/2011   10:10:23 PM
  • 44
    I switched to Vibram Five Fingers and I LOVE them! Whenever I go back to tennis shoes I get back pain. I absolutely love them :) - 7/12/2011   4:42:21 PM
  • 43
    I got Champion running shoes with pods in them (toning i suppose) but i wasn't so much buying them for projected effects of toning as much as the support they gave in the ball of the foot and anchor points below the arch while I walk/run.
    In classes for dance aerobics such as ZUMBA or CORE Rhythms I wear special dance sneakers that have no arch as the proper technique for those exercises is to stay on the ball of your foot or roll through your foot and anchor underneath the arch. using the arch can leave you off-balance and putting weight in places you may not want. They also have a swivel point in the ball of the foot beneath the toe to allow for ease of movement instead of enhanced traction like some cross-trainers. - 6/23/2011   8:58:13 AM
  • 42
    I looked at the Nike recovery shoes. They felt great. But I'd like to see what else is out there before I make that final decision.

    I do know that I want a pair! - 5/7/2011   10:35:29 AM
  • 41
    I definitely am a mid-foot runner, not really touching my heels to the ground much at all. I feel it is way more comfortable and natural to run this way. This being said, I very much want to get some minimalist running shoes. I particularly would like some Newtons, having read up on them quite a bit, but they are not in my budget at the moment, so I stick with my Merrells. I am also interested in the Vibrams, as my bro-in-law swears by them. I think it is a great concept, and would love a pair. They are less expensive than the Newtons, but are still not in my budget. Luckily, I shouldn't need a new pair of shoes for a while, and maybe by then, I'll have the extra money saved up for one of these. - 5/6/2011   11:34:59 AM
  • 40
    I'm into trying both barefoot running and minimalist shoes (the VFF). No conclusions yet, though. It takes time to adjust. - 5/6/2011   7:09:09 AM
  • 39
    I always enjoyed running barefoot as a kid, cuts, stickers, doggydoo, everything... but these days I'd at least want to wear those "shoes" that barefoot runners wear to protect from who-knows-what-biohazards left around on our sidewalks and roads these days (I've seen broken needles, spent condoms, dirty diapers all kinds of stuff while out walking, ewww, not my childhood roads for sure!).

    One thing I have noticed about walking or running, particularly in the summer, is that it is very important for me to get out of the shoes ASAP after exercise. That's why I'm intrigued with the after-workout sandals. The thing I noticed is if I stayed in the shoes, my feet continued to be hot for hours afterwards, and I was more likely to develop blisters on the bottom of my heels, INSIDE the skin (not like the friction bubbles that develop on the outside of a heel or ankle or toe etc)...and that is not comfortable.

    And while this might not be a "trend" but I find more comfort in running or walking in the Earth shoes (negative heel) then I ever did with my fancy-$chamancy high dollar MBT shoes from 4-5 years ago. The only reason I got the MBT's when I did, two years in a row, was that they had themselves certified as "Medical Equipment" or some such, and thus, my doctor could write a prescription for them and the cost was covered on our Flexible Spending Account (FSA). But after a few years, I still wasn't walking more or losing more weight, so she wouldn't write the prescription. In the meantime, though, I've discovered I do like walking with the Earth shoes (both the vegan model and the non-vegan model of walking/running shoes). So anyway, that's not much of a "scientific observation" being only from one person but might be something worth trying, especially for those like me who are heavy and don't wear high heeled shoes anyway (people who wear high heels a lot might find more discomfort in wearing Earth shoes unless they are prepared for the stretching they experience in the Achilles heel area.). - 5/5/2011   3:42:59 PM
  • 38
    I wouldn't think of running barefoot. Man had brains enough to invent shoes which was a big "STEP" forward.
    Even running at Pensacola Beach on the beautiful white sand still is a hazzard with broken seashells and pieces of driftwood. - 5/4/2011   11:19:07 PM
  • 37
    I have a pair of toning sandals that I bought on sale. I had to transition into them and now, even when I don't wear them for months, I can still wear them without any trouble. I don't think they do a lot of good, but they give me another pair of sandals to wear. - 5/4/2011   9:40:00 PM
  • 36
    I have bought and am starting to use Transition running shoes. As stated, it is best to progress slowly to less padded shoes.
    I have read a lot about barefoot and minimalist running and do believe that it is the way to go. However, I do worry about injuries while making the transition. I am moving, and may never get to barefoot, but even a little less padding, I believe will help my knees and ankles in the future.
    If you are interested, read about Chi-running on SparkPeople and else where. It's very interesting. - 5/4/2011   8:28:07 PM
    Six years ago I tried on a pair of MBT Kisumu sandals. They felt funny at first, but I eased into wearing them and wore them occasionally. When I developed Morton's Neuroma and Plantar Fasciitis with my regular footwear, my podiatrist recommended I wear the MBT's more often. 3k kilometers of walking, two marathons later, they now are my preferred footwear. I've had the first pair resoled and purchased a second pair, and my feet are happiest after wearing them. I'm a 68 Volksmarcher so no one points and says "How ugly!" Everything else in my collection of footwear (hiking boots, muckboots, stiff soled sandals, and cross trainers with and without custom orthotics or arch supports) yields aching feet after wearing. For me, whilst open to other solutions (they're not the most attractive footwear) MBT sandal's are the answer. - 5/4/2011   5:29:04 PM
    I wear Ryka's toners and love them,I don't know if they are doing any good but I like that my feet feel good. - 5/4/2011   12:25:44 PM
  • WHEELS54
    I have some recovery sandals that I love. MTBs are the ugliest shoes on the planet. The toning shoes are a gimmick IMO. Vibrams look uncomfortable and hot altho I haven't tried them. - 5/4/2011   12:17:09 PM
  • 32
    Like Cocopuff_79, I wear compression socks (and hose) because a DVT 10 years ago left permanent vein damage and poor circulation. My compression socks have seen me through many, many miles of walking and, just recently, through the few minutes of shuffling/jogging that I sneak in on the treadmill in an attempt to start running again after 21 years. As for shoes, I have triangular feet with a narrow heel and a very wide toe area, made wider by tailor's bunions (bunions on the little toe). The only shoe that works for me and keeps me from getting blisters is a 2E-width New Balance made on an SL-2 last. - 5/4/2011   12:14:30 PM
  • 31
    I LOVE my MBT shoes! They are not running shoes, they are my everyday shoes. (too heavy to be runners). I take exception to the author's comments about the MBTs. Since I started wearing them about 5 years ago, I have fallen far less often, I can walk all day in them, miles and miles and miles. I have no more lower back pain. I have all kinds of orthopedic issues so to find shoes that work at all is a raving miracle. They are very expensive, nearly $300 here, but I can wear a pair for a couple of years instead of 4 months, so they end up being very economical.

    I really want to try Vibram FF shoes! I heard a Toastmaster speech about them last year. Thanks to ALEXANDRA64 for her comments about using them when working out - this encourages me even more.

    A doctor told me to wear compression socks. I spent far too much money on them and found them too painful for my calves and wish I had not spent the money! - 5/4/2011   10:11:37 AM
  • 30
    I'm not a runner, just a walker. I have a pair of new balance shape ups, but I do have issues with balance. I think I will try the barefoot approach. I'll let you know how it goes. - 5/4/2011   10:07:41 AM
  • 29
    I see people running barefoot here in Baltimore City. It might be better for the feet, but the streets are dirty. Who knows what you will step in or on? Glass? Nails? Dog poop? No thanks. :) - 5/4/2011   9:54:17 AM
  • 28
    I really want to try the fiveFingers! I used to run on the treadmill barefooted & people would scold me & tell me I was damaging my body, but I had fewer injuries than I did when I ran with shoes! I have a pair of shape up sandals, they are okay. - 5/4/2011   9:14:39 AM
  • 27
    I just bought a pair of Abeo Active Walkers from the Walking Company. The shoes are for people who have had knee surgery, are overweight and need hip stability for hiking. - 5/4/2011   6:58:19 AM
  • 26
    I have hated wearing shoes since I was a child--I very rarely wear shoes or even slippers at home--I have found I can spend longer time & increase my mph on the treadmill when I am in bare feet and I don't end up with charley horses an hour after finishing. Barefoot running is something than intriques me although because of the Canadian winters it would only be feasible for a limited time every year.
    - 5/4/2011   6:44:31 AM
  • 25
    I hate spendind "real money" for shoes, but I will not give up my Shape Ups. I bought my first pair about 1 1/2 years ago, and I haven't had to got the doctor's office for cortisone shots in my knee since. I have two pair, one for work, and one for running around. I don't wear them 100% of the time, but walking to the corner store, going shopping, anythime I'm going to be on my feet, you betcha!!!

    @DRB13_1-- They aren't anything like the platform shoes. They add an inch or so to your height, but they aren't solid to walk on at all. I have a weird way of walking, and since wearing them, I haven't fallen of my feet at all (while wearing them). (I still occasionally do while wearing other shoes.) I find that, for me at least, they are more stable than other shoes, even flats. - 5/4/2011   5:17:05 AM
  • 24
    Jeff Galloway feels barefoot running is a "fad" that comes and goes about every 5-10 years.
    The toning shoes remind me too much of platform shoes, which were instruments of injury. I'll stick to being active to tone the buns. - 5/4/2011   1:35:25 AM
  • 23
    I have the Sketchers toning Shoes...I will tell you my buns burn more with them on than my regular shoes..... - 5/4/2011   12:48:29 AM
  • 22
    I have Vibram Five Fingers that I use on the treadmill and for indoor exercising. I love being barefooted and so enjoy wearing them when the ground isn't too rocky. The "Born to Run" book was very intriguing. One young man I know got so excited about VFFs after reading the book that he got a pair and took off running long distances rather than breaking into using them slowly. He damaged his calf muscles and could barely walk for some period of time afterwards. He's no longer a big fan of them. - 5/3/2011   11:34:14 PM
  • 21
    I am so intrigued by barefoot running, but with my heel issue, as well as our Canadian winters, I'm thinking that it's not for me. Another great blog Nancy - very interesting. - 5/3/2011   11:10:41 PM
  • 20
    I bought a pair of LA Gear toning shoes for around $30, the soles are not as thick as some of the other brands. I don't know if they tone, but they make it easier for me to increase my walking speed. I only wear them when I am walking for exercise, I don't keep them on all day. - 5/3/2011   5:16:27 PM
  • 19
    I also got Vibram Five Fingers last year. The transition took a while, particularly for classes, but now regular shoes feel like lead weights and my feet cramp up. I still feel a lot of extra work in the calves when doing a lot of moves that require bouncing on my toes or jumping, but in most ways, it is way better than regular shoes. One thing I cannot do in them is step aerobics. Stepping down off the step on the ball of the foot was painful, and made me realize why I developed so many foot problems when I was really into step. I think if I had not had an overly cushioned shoe, I would not have pushed it so hard so long and saved myself a lot of agony. I still have some foot issues, esp. pain in flexing the big toe, as in the back leg of lunges, but the VFF's help. I recently bought some Merrell gloves with high hopes that they would feel the same without looking quite so goofy, but they feel as if they have something under the ball of my foot, and my toes hit the end of the shoe even after going up a size. - 5/3/2011   2:56:16 PM
  • 18
    love the socks would like to try the tights next. but i do race in mine and actually find my legs very fresh after short faster races - 5/3/2011   1:17:00 PM
  • 17
    The only problem I had with my Reeboks was that I had to adjust my step a little when I first started wearing them. You do immediately notice the balls under your feet, but that goes away. One of my friends uses her Skechers to keep her feet going during an eight-hour shift at a retail store.

    I used to wear compression socks as a treatment for shin splints. I think I still have them somewhere. - 5/3/2011   12:55:24 PM
  • 16
    I have to wear a compression sock because of a DVT in my leg. I haven't tried running yet in it...I imagine it will be very hot and uncomfortable...must walking indoors on the treadmill is frustrating but I have to put up with it for the next few months.
    otherwise...I used to do short runs in my Nike Frees but anything over 3 miles I need my regular cushioned sneakers. - 5/3/2011   12:54:10 PM
  • 15
    I have friends who are big fans of barefoot running, and I have done it for short periods to help my form. I have switched to more minimalist shoes (Nike Free currently) and love them, so I plan to continue using those. Recently I invested in compression socks to use after my long runs, and they do really help my recovery--my legs feel great even after a 7 or 8 mile run. Haven't tried post run sandals, but I may eventually, though my running shoes are so comfortable I'm not in that much of a rush to get out of them! - 5/3/2011   12:10:57 PM
  • 14
    I haven't tried any of them, but I was curious about barefoot running. I've read various things about it and don't know if I would ever actually spend the money on it. Everything is so expensive! - 5/3/2011   10:05:21 AM
  • 13
    *I've heard bad things about the toning shoes. Don't know if I will ever try them. - 5/3/2011   10:04:15 AM
  • 12
    I love my Nike Free shoes! I will not go to any other running shoes! So light and comfy! Ran my 10K in them and no blisters, no burning sensation (which I have had with other shoes running a 5K!) I wouldn't trade them for the world! Another 4 lbs I am getting a new pair! - 5/3/2011   9:29:43 AM
  • 11
    I bought a pair of shape-ups only to be told the next day that they are bad for those of us with hip and knee problems. It says so on their site but not their box. My SIL'S chiropractor blamed her back injury on wearing them.

    The 2 times I wore them when I sat down to rest my toes fell asleep. I can't see how that can be good for my body. - 5/3/2011   9:27:46 AM
  • 10
    I have two pairs of New Balance; one pair of running shoes, and one pair of hiking shoes. That's all I really need, though I might switch to Nike or Reebok running shoes when these wear out. - 5/3/2011   9:10:05 AM
  • 9
    love love love my shape ups and reebock toning shoes! - 5/3/2011   8:40:27 AM
  • 8
    I hate when someone comments on my VFFs not to my face. for example, one woman said to her child (very loudly), "Look at that woman's shoes! they are so ugly!"

    I don't tell people when their clothes are ugly; why do they think they can comment on my shoes? - 5/3/2011   8:36:11 AM
  • 7
    I really like wearing ReeTones by Reebok. The cushion under the ball of the feet really feels good. I brought them for the comfort not the hype of the toning. - 5/3/2011   7:39:47 AM
    I have no desire for barefoot running yet. I have very sensitive feet. I also don't see all the hype in the toning shoes. If they are comfortable then I can understand wearing them but I don't think they tone your backside any more than lunges or squats could. I would like to try cushion socks or post run sandals. - 5/3/2011   7:20:04 AM
  • 5
    As someone who's not very knowledgeable about running shoes, I appreciate this useful information. - 5/3/2011   7:19:18 AM
  • 4
    I am a walker, and love the Sketcher's Shape-Ups. They are the nost comfortable shoe I have ever had o my feet and i personally feel that they encourage the 'land on your heel, push off on your toe' concept of walking I have read the reports, heard the claims.....even seen a commercial for lawyers bringing a class-action suit. I wear them when I walk simply because they are comfortable. I feel like I am waling on air!

    I also like the compression socks, I feel they give added support to my instep. - 5/3/2011   6:48:27 AM
  • 3
    I have extremely flat feed and have had morton's neuroma in both feet, so I am a little concerned about causing further damage with the minimalist shoe. But if I knew it wouldn't hurt, I'd love to give them a try! - 5/3/2011   6:20:52 AM
    I switched to Vibram Five Fingers last year and absolutely love them! I won't workout at the gym without them. When it is nice weather, I also walk outside with them or just wear them around because they are so comfortable. I actually feel off balance at the gym if I wear regular sneakers. It just isn't the same. With VFFs I can really grip the ground which is important when doing kettlebells or TRX or especially working on the Bosu. - 5/3/2011   6:05:22 AM

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