(In case you missed it, here’s Part 1)
By Benjamin Markus, October 2011
The trend: coming or going?
Although FiveFingers sales soared last year and are expected to double this year, Tommasi said, others believe the legs of the barefoot-running movement are tiring quickly.
“Believe me,” Galloway said. “This fad has already started to go away.”
Galloway said that overtraining in minimalist footwear, or no footwear, causes thousands of runners to be injured, which, in turn, leads to detrimental word-of-mouth, which eventually kills the fad.
“The only people that are really benefiting from [the barefoot-running movement] are the orthopedists and the podiatrists,” Galloway joked at Sunday’s Florida Track Club meeting.
Joe Parr, a sales representative at Gainesville Running and Walking in Tioga, Fla., said he thinks the trend is “definitely on the downswing,” for reasons similar to those mentioned by Galloway.
“We are actually seeing more and more people coming in with injuries from [FiveFingers],” Parr said.
Although Gainesville Running and Walking does not sell Vibram shoes, the store does sell a variety of other minimalist-inspired shoes, which, Parr says, sell worse than traditional running shoes.
However, representatives from Gainesville’s Vibram-selling stores, of which there are two, Fit2Run and Lloyd Clarke Sports, say they believe otherwise, with respect to the growth of barefoot running and its related merchandise.
Dana Howard, a manager at Lloyd Clarke Sports, said she thinks the popularity of Vibram FiveFingers is still growing.
“We don’t feel like it’s hit its peak yet,” Howard said.
Lloyd Clarke Sports, which is in its third year selling FiveFingers and is the second-largest of the four FiveFingers accounts in Florida, sells 17 styles of FiveFingers shoes. The shoes occupy the highest number of spots of any shoe on the sales wall and sell the best of any minimalist shoe, Howard said.
Likewise, Cortney Benson, a sales representative at Fit2Run, Gainesville’s newest running store, said that sales of FiveFingers are “definitely” still rising and added that she thinks the shoes have a good reputation in the running community.
Since the store’s opening in August, Benson said Fit2Run has sold more than 230 pairs of FiveFingers, with 92 pairs sold in September, the store’s only full month of operation.
A shared belief among runners
The one feature of barefoot-inspired running on which Galloway, Howard, Parr and Benson seem to uniformly agree is the necessity of a slow and gradual transition into minimalist-footwear use.
Anthony Traina, 25, said he, too, agrees with gradually transitioning into the use of minimalist footwear, and specifically, FiveFingers.
Traina has run daily since middle school and has owned a pair of FiveFingers for just under a year now. He said he has not been limiting in the surfaces on which he runs with the shoes but did say that he has eased into his use of the shoes.
“You can’t just… jump in them and run on asphalt or cement for three miles,” Traina said. “It needs to be kind of a slow progress, which I’ve tried to make sure to do over the course of the year.”
Traina added that he has never had a serious running injury and said he plans on purchasing another pair of FiveFingers when the time comes.
“I think in a month I might have to invest in a new pair if I want to keep running with them, which I really do,” Traina said.