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Asics… Well, At Least I Respect Their Wrestling Shoes

Posted by on Jun 6, 2011 | 7 Comments

Pete Larson of pointed me to this comment from Asics’ head researcher Simon Bartold, which originally appeared in a podiatry forum and was reposted at Zero Drop.   Here’s the quote:

Well Dr. Kirby, A big thank you! Here was I thinking I was the only one fighting a rearguard battle to bring scientific debate to this nonsense!First we had to deal with barefoot, and now the so called Minimalist running debate. It just gets sooo frustrating.What I find fascinating however is that Joe Hammil was intimately involved in the NB minimalist project. A little bit of a pity they did not do this research BEFORE they designed the shoe.

We (ASICS) are now working on a training shoe that is less structure and lightweight, but still offering stability and holding true to a rearfoot srike pattern design. I have based this on the premise that, no matter what is being said about technical running footwear, there is no evidence that it really ‘aint broken, so we will tweak, but no need to fix. The minimalist movement works on the premise that by reducing heel height, i.e. the overall gradient,by maybe 6 mm, it induces a midfoot or even forefoot strike pattern. I have ot been able to identify one single piece of credible evidence to support this.. so.. we will stick to our guns.Once more the ether is thick with unsupportable nonsense.. pose, chi, toning barefoot, minimalist….when will it end?

Pete himself listed the the “credible evidence” Bartold claimed didn’t exist.  Maybe Asics doesn’t have access to academic databases.  Or printed journals.  Or a library.  Or the Internet.

Pete even included a Bartold quote from 2002 on barefoot running:

I think unquestionably Zola Budd got it right when she was running barefoot. I think the signs from all the laboratories around the world would support that the human foot is probably the perfect model, but of course it’s impractical for most people wanting to go out running barefoot, there are too many obstacles, and of course you know, you might get injured by a sharp object, and the surfaces we run on transmit too much shock. But in a perfect environment on a perfect surface, then an unshod foot is probably the best way to go.”

Perhaps Simon has a future in politics.

Since it seems that Bartold is speaking for Asics, we can assume Asics is going to continue churning out raised heel motion control shoes.

  • Good for them because there will always be at least a few people that will buy into the idea that they need that to run.
  • Good for the technology adoption theorists because Asics fills out the “laggard” tail at the far right.
  • Good for me because I can now rely on Asics to be the butt of my jokes for years to come.  I was a little worried when every other company started planning or producing minimalist shoes.

For me, the scariest part of this debate isn’t that people object to the premise of barefoot or minimalist shoe running.  The scariest part is they seem to completely dismiss the idea. There’s two competing hypotheses:

1. Humans have an innate “best running form” which takes advantage of our physiology. This form can be seen in children running without shoes. Based on this hypothesis, humans have been running successfully barefoot or in minimalist shoes for at least tens of thousands of years.   This is the premise behind barefoot running, and by extension, minimalist shoe running.  It’s the idea that you’re a strong, capable organism able to do wonderful things under your own power.

Natural freedom.

2. The vast majority of humans are inherently flawed and require special artificial devices and technologies built into special shoes in order to run. Since we are all flawed, we need experts to design special plastic, leather, and rubber shoes and shoe inserts that will allow us to run.  Based on this hypothesis, our species have only been successful runners for about three or four decades.  This is the same group that will claim heel striking is natural.  It’s the idea that we’re weak, feeble piles of goo incapable of even the simplest forms of movement without the aid of a magical device.

Artificial dependence.

For some people, #2 may be a better option.  After all, there is no one right answer for all people.  But is this the way we want to frame all human movement?  We’re all fundamentally flawed and need artificial technology?

Of the two, which seems more plausible?  Asics seems to know the answer.  Good for them.






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  1. Patton Gleason
    June 10, 2011

    Whether he is right or way off base (clearing my throat passively), at least he got into the octagon. And a huge kudos to Pete. This guy is in a class by himself. The billion dollar shoe industry hasn’t put out any article that is that comprehensive. It will be interesting to see if the other traditional running companies chime in.

  2. Dr. Craig Richards: A Call For Independent Shoe Testing | Brandon's (and his family's)Big Adventures
    June 7, 2011

    […] Recently Zero Drop posted a quote from Simon Bartold of Asics. This led to a spirited debate, which was continued on Runblogger. I mentioned the debate in my last post. […]

  3. briderdt
    June 7, 2011

    “The vast majority of humans are inherently flawed…”

    Sounds a lot like the Christian idea that humans are genetically sinful… No wonder the shoe debate seems so religious.

  4. Colt
    June 6, 2011

    It never ceases to amuse me how the laggards always use the same arguments: you might step on something sharp; today’s environment is too hard/not conducive to barefoot. I just did some barefoot hiking last week, and let me tell you: natural terrain is not “nice and soft”. And acorn shells are nature’s equivalent of glass shards.

  5. Aaron
    June 6, 2011

    I used to rock those wrestling shoes back in high school (’87) and I wasn’t even a wrestler. They were that cool.

    Pete did a great job with his post and the research involved. The post-post back and forth with everybody, including Bartold, is interesting reading, if you have a couple of hours to spare.

    Too bad for Asics, I guess. It would have been interesting to see what they could have come up with for a minimalist shoe.

    I think that, in the end, everybody agreed that we are all different and that there is no single right way for everybody.

  6. shel
    June 6, 2011

    duuude, what can you expect. the asics gel kayano is perhaps one of the highest selling road running shoes ever. even his holy awesomness, barack h. obama wears those suckers. they’ve got to stick to their guns on this one… they’ll position themselves as the only company making traditional running shoes one day – you watch! quote me. write it down! and the fleet feet chain will grasp sadly at their “fitlosophy” for years before they have to close the doors on the chain because they refused to adapt and became a laughing stock. and finally, road runner sports, the biggest running online retailer, will go out of business due to their flat refusal to market or endorse safer foot wear as well. and i for one will be happy to point and laugh and say i told you so!

  7. Dave
    June 6, 2011

    Screw ASICS! I agree with you, they do have the best wrestling shoes, but that’s about it