Sole Man: 12 Things We Learned About Minimalism

In 1977, when "The Complete Book of Running" was published, most running shoes were rather minimalist in design. Photo: Brian Metzler

Minimalism Isn’t A New Concept

It’s funny and almost ironic that minimalism was looked at as a brand-new concept in recent years. Minimalist running shoes have been around since before the start of the running boom in the 1970s.

Australian Derek Clayton ran the first sub-2:10 marathon in history wearing a pair of “barely there” Onitsuka Tiger (the Japanese brand now known as ASICS) Marap shoes, a model that would rival just about any shoe of today for its minimalist construction. But back then, all running shoes were minimalist models — although not called as such then — with only a very thin layer of foam and an equally thin layer of rubber between a runner’s foot and the ground.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that Nike, New Balance and other brands started to increase the amount of foam and heel-toe slope in running shoes. Shoes got progressively bigger and more enhanced, but lightweight, low-to-the-ground racing flats have been around forever. One needs to look no further than one of the original books about mainstream running — “The Complete Book of Running,” written by Jim Fixx in 1977 — to remember that minimalism ruled the day when the jogging fad took hold in the 1970s. (Look at the cover of running books in the 1980s and 1990s and you’ll see runners in well-cushioned shoes.)

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