The running footwear industry is changing dramatically in the next 12 months. Runners are demanding lighter and more flexible running shoes to help them prevent injuries and develop better running form.
Running shoes with wider toe boxes, lightweight, small or zero heel-to-forefoot height differentials (zero drop) and flexible outsoles will become the norm. They have certainly caught the attention of major footwear manufacturers and small start-ups looking to capture a piece of the $3+ billion running shoe market.
As runners learn more about running biomechanics and major footwear manufacturers like Newton Running, Merrell, and New Balance actively educating runners, the running shoe selection in 2011 will be both stunning and confusing.
The floodgates will open in a few weeks with new minimalist shoe designs from every major running shoe manufacturer. While some manufacturers are just tweaking their existing line, shoe designers from start-ups and well-established brands like Merrell and New Balance are not stripping as much as they can out of a shoe, but building and delivering something closer to a barefoot experience.
But what is zero drop? Zero drop is simply a 1-to-1 ratio, meaning that the heel and forefoot are the same distance off the ground. There is no drop or has a zero differential or zero offset from the heel to the toe.
There are a handful of innovative companies that are driving the running market space in terms of technological advances and innovative products. They include Altra Running, GoLite Footwear, Inov-8, Merrell, New Balance, Somnio Running, Terra Plana Vivobarefoot, and ZEMgear.
Altra Running has a mission "to bring proper running technique to the masses" by providing zero drop footwear that will allow everyone, from hardcore runners to beginners, to run with proper form. They want to make running easier, fun and less injurious.
Their vast assortment of performance zero drop shoes (Adam, Eve, Instinct, Intuition, Lone Peak) for road running and trail running certainly put them on the right track to fulfill its mission.
GoLite Footwear proprietary Soft Against The Ground (SATG) technology effectively turns traditional shoe construction upside down to provide greater stability and traction, while enhancing overall protection and performance.
Their latest BareTech platform combines SATG with a completely neutral last so that the heel is on the same plane as the metatarsal—zero drop.
Be on the lookout for their highly-anticipated Tara Lite trail runner, a design blending the best features of barefoot and trail running shoes, and BareTech-based running shoes (Amp Lite, Flash Lite, Micro Lite, Spring Lite).