Read: Part I
Technology That Is Not Technology
We’ve been indoctrinated to believe that when running shoe companies develop new “advanced” materials (without real scientific evidence proving their benefit) that these advancements are better for us. They still call it “technology”, but do not let you be fooled. When shoe companies say “technology”, they just mean: we have created a new piece of rubber with a fancy name. They have totally neglected one of the most noble definitions of technology: “the application of scientific advances to benefit humanity” (Source: The Franklin Institute Resources for Science Learning
Try an experiment. Go to Asics’ European website (choose UK for example). Wow, there is a link called “Technologies”. Click on it. Now, click on “Glossary”. Check out the descriptions. Do any of the technologies actually benefit the way our body works or do they just describe isolated and unscientific features? The philosophy seems to be: Make it sound cool, make it sound like the shoes will enhance performance, make it sound like shock absorption is a must. I mean, just listen to the names: “AHAR: High Abrasion Resistance rubber” (a rubber with a fancy name), “Biomorphic fit” (I cannot even figure out wich part of the shoe upper this is, but it is obviously a very amazing “technology” that ensures “a better fit, improved comfort, less risk of injury and enhanced performance” – all in one single blow), “Duomax” (the old “max” always works), “Propulsion Plate” (eh… with a supersonic de Laval nozzle?), Trail Sensor System” (I am a robot shoe, and I can sense everything. Just lean back and let me carry you, Mr. Runner) and “Impact Guidance System” (wow, does it have lasers?).
Can you see the pattern? Make it sound innovative. Make it sound technological. Make it sound cool. And then people will buy it. Technology is always good, right? And the more of it, the better. Well… IT IS A SHOE! It is not a rocket, and it is not even real technology! It does not improve anything – it is just marketing. A shoe is not even necessary. Your feet work pretty well. They are a brilliant piece of biological “technology” by themselves. Would you walk around with rubber blocks on your hands, if glove companies offered you a Biomorphic Abrasion Resistant Propulsion Sensor Guidance Quadruplemax Technology? Well, you probably would, because it sounded cool and you thought it would enhance your “gripping performance” or something, but the fact is that it would prevent you from using your hands properly.
Asics is not the only brand to blame. Here is some “technology” from other companies (Yes, they all call it technology!):
Adidas: “GeoFIT”, “Pro-moderator”, “Torsion System”, “Quickstrike”, “Adiprene” etc.
Puma: “FitIn-concept”, “Duocell”, “M2D”, “Internal Archtech”, “KMS Lite”, “Evertrack”, “Trirate” etc.
Saucony: “CMVEA”, “Comfortemp”, Decoupled SRC Crash Pad”, “Flexion Plate”, “Forefoot Stretch Zone”, “Heel ProGrid with Respon-Tek”, “Impact Interface” etc.
Nike: “Air Zoom”, “Air Max”, Nike Shox”, “Nike+”, “Speed+” etc.
New Balance: “Acteva Lite”, “Stability web”, “Abzorb DTS”, “N-fuse”, “Nlock”, “N-Grip”, “AT Tread”, “Biocool”, “Lightning Dry” etc.
Is it not a bit silly? Or do you buy something just because it has “max”, +, “pro” or “bio” in it? It seems that running shoes are the biggest deception of all shoe deceptions. In fact, I fear that the companies actually believe in it themselves. If the designers were really innovative, they would create whole new concepts. They would not just “max” this and “max” that.
Minimal Shoe Marketing
Let us return to minimal shoes. Here we have the honest marketing, and clever designs, I have been looking for… not! Do not think that a shoe is good, just because a company mentions words like “barefoot” or “natural”, or because they promise you better sensory perception, better posture, better breathing or the like. In fact minimal shoe marketing can be even more boastful and fake than running shoe marketing, when it comes to health aspects. They use barefoot philosophy as an excuse for impossible promises.
So where does this leave us? Of course some good products are available. And of course marketing will always be a necessity (though it can take many shapes). Minimal shoe manufacturers should take a fresh and honest approach to market the facts of features and benefits. My aim is not to criticize marketers. They can promise me the world if they want to. My real goal is to criticize you and me. Please, let us use the device we carry on top of our necks. Unless they are completely wrapped up in ‘duo max foam’, we can still use our brains when deciding what to wear on our feet.
Let us see through the “technology” approach of running shoe marketers. Then, let us see through the health approach of minimal shoe marketers. Finally, let us use common sense. As it is now, our feet (and in fact our whole body) still work best, when we can actually use them – when we can control them and create variation during our activities. Feet are a brilliant tool that should not be cast in rubber or idiocy. They deserve to be used wisely and with consideration. A shoe should only offer a minimal layer around the foot. A shoe should not be a crutch. “Technology” cannot make your feet better at being feet, but neither can a so-called “natural” or “healthy” shoe. Your feet are just feet. So, if you want to wear a shoe, choose a shoe (link to what to look for) that lets your feet be feet. It can still be fashionable, waterproof, protective or whatever you may like, but the real task is to keep it as minimal as possible while offering these features.