When I was finishing up some last-minute Christmas shopping last week, I was surprised to come across the advertisement featured on the right. It seems that the increased attention and interest being paid to the minimalist running movement has prompted even Skechers to come out with their own version of a minimalist shoe: the Skechers GORun. The shoe appears, at first glance, to be very similar to the Nike Free, which was a disappointment to some minimalist fans because of its heel-toe drop of up to 7.2 mm (in the Free Run), its relatively thick sole, and the presence of a significant amount of arch support. However, unlike the Nike Free, the Skechers GORun has a lower heel-toe drop of 4 mm, meant to encourage a more natural stride, and are significantly lighter-weight, so maybe Skechers is taking its cues from the more minimal New Balance Minimus line. That being said, the shoes do appear to have a rather thick sole compared to some of their minimalist counterparts, but I have yet to see the shoe in person, so this may be an illusion created by extending the rubber of the sole up the side of the shoe for style purposes.
Regardless of how minimalist the Skechers GORun actually turns out to be, it was their tag-line that really got me thinking: “Mid-Foot Strike – The Way You’re Supposed to Run.” How does a company that produced (and still sells) the Shape-Up, a shoe that was basically designed for heel-striking and has prompted a lawsuit from one woman who claims to have been “catastrophically injured” by wearing hers, really expect us to believe that they have our best interests in terms of the health of our feet in mind? Even more surprising is the conflicting, or hypocritical some might say, statements present in the marketing material for both of these shoes. Skechers claims that the GORun allows you run the “way you’re supposed to run”, and yet still maintains in their description of the Shape-Up Liv that it allows for the “natural” adjustment of your stride and “promotes fluid transitions as you walk, jog, or run.” In addition, they claim that the Shape-up, which is, again, designed for heel-striking, “guides you back to the body’s barefoot stride” with its “curved bottom”!
Of course, Skechers is by no means the only major company who, despite releasing a minimalist (or minimal-ish, if you prefer) shoe, continues to tout the virtues of their many other heavily-padded, more traditional running shoes. Reebok is another prime example with their recently released Realflex, which is marketed as “Natural movement. Perfected.”, and yet is still sold alongside the EasyTone. That’s not to say that I’m not happy to see bigger companies buying into the benefits (or at least the recent craze) of minimalist running, I am! It does, however, strike me as funny that companies like Skechers seem to think we won’t notice when they make similar claims (e.g., the use of words like “natural” and “barefoot”) about two radically different shoes such as the GORun and the Shape-Up. I also recognize that it is unrealistic to expect the big running shoe companies to completely abandon their non-minimalist running shoes all at once (hey, a girl can dream!), but I sure wish they wouldn’t hurt my brain so much with their conflicting marketing strategies!