HEALTH & FITNESS
From the Issue #18
By Mike Ryan
In the world of running shoes, the trend
has been toward more cushion, more support, more comfort. Think
Air, think Shox. But, to a small group of running coaches and
foot specialists, modern athletic shoes are doing to feet what
plush living room sofas and TV remotes have been doing to people’s
asses: making them lazy, physically underdeveloped and more
prone to injuries.
few years ago when Nike was looking for the next big advance
in running shoe design, they asked some of the world’s
most respected track and field coaches for advice. A common
response must have made their heads spin a little: We don’t
need any more shoe, we need less shoe, in fact, maybe we need
no shoe. Give us the bare human foot.
Stanford track coach Vin Lananna said, “I believe that
athletes that have been training barefoot run faster and have
fewer injuries. It’s just common sense.” Vin regularly
put his athletes through their paces barefoot on the grass of
the university’s practice golf course. Other coaches agree,
and point to the foot/ankle strength and resistance to injury
seen in African and Caribbean runners who have grown up playing
and running barefoot much of the time.
the research and development team at Nike set out to make a
shoe that acted like it wasn’t there; one that trained
and worked the foot as nature intended. What’s the point,
you may ask? Why not just train in your bare feet? Well, that’s
fine if you have a finely groomed golf course to run on, but
most athletes train in the street, in the gym, on the track,
or out on the trails. This still calls for a shoe that not only
offers protection from glass and pebbles, but also from the
strike of the foot on hard bruising surfaces.
first step was to measure exactly what happened to the bare
foot when it ran: what the contact areas were between the foot
and the ground, how the ankle and toes moved. Once they collected
the data, the next step was to create a shoe that could reproduce
the natural foot movement. The design team, led by Toby Hatfield
and Eric Evar, struggled through innumerable concepts and finally
came up with an entirely new kind of shoe. Deep slices in the
sole, virtually no ankle support and room for the toes to spread
out and move; all head-turning designs. Then it was off to testing
again, to make sure the shoe really imitated barefoot running.
There was a lot of “back to the drawing board” fine
tuning but eventually the Nike Free was created and ready for
this year, Faze Magazine was in Germany at the University of
Cologne for the results of a season-long research study of university
track athletes that showed enhanced performance and speed by
training in the Nike Free shoes. One key point is that Nike
Free is a “training shoe,” just like running with
dumbbells or running at high altitudes might develop some aspect
of your fitness, Nike Free and barefoot training are tools to
make you stronger.
as a training shoe, even in the off-season during our cold Canadian
winters, the Nike Free can help you regain the competitive edge
that evolution and natural selection have given us.