Are Maximalist Running Shoes A Good Choice?

Just as soon as running popular culture swung itself into the minimalist running movement, it has redirected itself back towards the large, cushioned, supportive soles of the newest running shoe craze: the maximalist running shoe.

The HokaOne is the most prominent maximalist shoe on the market with a weight of 12.3 oz for men and 10.5 oz, for women. The depth is drastic at 30mm in the heel and 24 mm in the forefoot in their “oversize” model, and a more dramatic 35mm heel and 31 mm forefoot in the “trail” edition. The general build of the shoe is described as a meta-rocker, with low heel-forefoot differential, and a “sculpted outsole radius in the heel and toe, creates a unique fulcrum effect and encourages a guided foot gait cycle” as described by the company itself. My course observation is this shoe appears as if a moon boot and a Sketchers rear-lifter cross pollinated.

Though there is not yet scientific research performed outside of the Hoka One company on the performance and biomechanical and physiological effects of running in these shoes available, there is general evidence against the general characteristics of the shoe. The Hoka One website boasts to improve descent speed on trails, and decreased energy consumption during ultra-distance events, yet several studies demonstrate negative effects of increased shoe weight and stability-both of which are provided by the large sole of the maximalist shoe.

A 2012 study out of the University of Colorado Boulder demonstrated that while it is more physiologically efficient to run in shoes versus running barefoot, the lighter shoe allows for more efficient running (1). The investigators found that for every 100g of weight added to the foot, the volume of oxygen consumed (VO2 max) increased by 1%.

The challenges to interpreting results of laboratory studies are numerous. First and foremost, most of these studies are conducted on treadmills, which does not account for terrain changes, though estimates can be made regarding energy expenditure on ground running versus treadmill running. Secondly, many studies are performed on elite runners with similar running styles. This does not allow for complete translation to novice or mid-level runners with varying running styles.

Ultimately, it is advised that runners do their homework regarding evidence on running shoe types, especially if they are injured, or looking to become high mileage runners. If a runner finds that they are satisfied with their running and uninjured, no changes should be made to their footwear. If one finds themselves injured frequently, or unable to progress speed or mileage, it is beneficial to seek professional advice, often from a physical therapist or podiatrist specializing in running conditions.

References
Franz J, Wierzbinski C, Kram R. Metabolic Cost of Running Barefoot versus shod: Is lighter better?.Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2012;1519-1525.

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About runningyourbody

I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Certified Pilates instructor, and runner with celiac disease. I am passionate about educating people on running, pilates, and women’s health topics. I am trained in the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as pre and post partum impairments. In my free time I can be found anywhere outside. I enjoy training for races with friends, cooking gluten free meals, and traveling with my husband. My goal is to share information with you in a lighthearted and enjoyable forum. I am always contributing fun and interesting posts on my blog. Feel free to check it out @ https://runningyourbody.wordpress.com/
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6 Responses to Are Maximalist Running Shoes A Good Choice?

  1. James says:

    Hey there.

    Just thought I’d share my main reason for preferring “minimalist” style running shoes — sensory feedback. I think they fare better for developing proprioception, reflexes, and body awareness. I just published a blog post on proprioception if you’re keen to check it out!

    Cheers,

    – James

    • I agree, when approached properly, minimalist style running shoes lend to safer running with decreased injury. I do find that when patients have poor proprioception and go straight from a heavily cushioned, stabilizing shoe to a minimalist shoe without gradually working into them there tends to be a high degree of injury, particularly to the foot and IT band.

      • James says:

        Absolutely. I generally recommend hiking opposed to running in them. In fact, most people dont even need to be running until they can do it properly — there are other ways to get those benefits with less of an injury risk.

    • Excellent reason James, I completely agree. We are much more able to adapt our foot strike and propel our bodies forward more efficiently with improved proprioceptive feedback in minimalist shoes.
      Thank you for this comment, I’m so sorry that I didn’t see it earlier!

  2. Piscolasaca says:

    I haven’t found those perfect pair of running shoes, and I’m still looking! I wear one shoe at a time and tend to switch models/ brands after they wear out
    on the main page

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