Minimal diversion: Some brands stick to bare-bones footwear to satisfy hardcore minimalist

Companies such as Inov-8, Vibram and Vivobarefoot all bring products to the table that remain true to their minimal roots but appeal to a wider audience with updated lacing systems and offerings that gradually ease novice consumers down to zero drop.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

As more companies enter the minimal game, some of the original barefoot companies, and a few late adopters, are sticking to their roots for Spring ’13.

Companies like Inov-8, Vibram and Vivobarefoot all bring products to the table that remain true to their minimal roots, but appeal to a wider audience with updated lacing systems and offerings that gradually ease novice consumers down to zero drop.

Despite companies introducing minimal products that are more on the middle of the cushion spectrum (see feature story, O.R.D. Day 3), these companies are sticking to their roots because representatives say they believe minimal shoes offer the perfect vehicle for natural movement.

“We believe the human body is perfect,” said Skora founder and CEO David Sypniewski. “We try to design shoes that get out of the way of the runner and we believe that strengthening the body, the feet and the lower extremities is a process that should be enjoyed for life so you can run for life.”

New Outdoor Retailer, Skora offers a variety of products for the minimal shoe lover. The company, Sypniewski said, is using a technology called Injected Blown Rubber in its outsoles in the new Phase (MSRP $110) and Core (MSRP $155). The Core utilizes the company’s performance goatskin leather with synthetics on the liner to make it technical but affordable.

Graham Jordinson, product manager at Inov-8, said the company has always had 3-2-1-0 offerings that gradually ease consumers into barefoot running if that’s what they’re looking to do. Inov-8 offers three different lines of product: Trail, Road and Functional Fitness, the last of which is for the exploding Crossfit and P90X fitness programs. General Manager Chris Melton said the company identified these areas as some of the most explosive growth activities.

In the Road category, Inov-8 has the Road-X 255, a 9-ounce product with injected EVA midsole, with a 9-millimeter drop. On its bare-bones minimal side it has the Road-Xtreme 118, a zero-drop, 4.2-ounce minimal product that offers the barefoot running experience.

Vibram has revamped its See Ya by adding shoelaces and calling it the See Ya LS (MSRP $100). This shoe, said spokesman PJ Antonik, is true to the company’s minimal roots as it’s among the company’s lightest, most flexible shoes.

“It’s the shoe that targets the seasoned runner,” Antonik said. “But we tried to make it more versatile and appeal to a bigger audience.” Plus, Vibram is offering the ELX men’s and the women’s Entrada (both MSRP $75) to hit a lower price point and appeal to people who use the shoes for every day or light fitness.

“In this entire category there are a lot of gray areas,” Antonik said. “We’re just trying to be consistent.”

For Zem Gear, the buzzword for Spring 2013 is versatility.

“We see minimal going in all types of directions,” said Zem’s Christina Bracken. But Zem is offering versatility and still staying true to its minimal and barefoot roots with new lace styling options in its Terra Tech (MSRP $85) glove-like shoe for light trail running, its 365 (MSRP $80) split-toe shoe for road running and its 2Cinch (MSRP $80) split-toe for cross training. Zem also offers a children’s line including the TerraRaz (MSRP $50), TerraMisu (MSRP $40) and Terra (MSRP $40).

New Balance offers an even lighter version of its Minimus with the new Minimus Hi-Rez (MSRP $120), which is a zero-drop product whose real story is in the outsole, which instead of one continuous strip of rubber is actually a series of 42 independent midsole pods mechanically bonded to the durable fabric base.

Vivobarefoot’s big minimal launch is the One, which can easily transition from the road to the treadmill. It features the company’s high-abrasion, puncture-resistant TPU 2.5-millimeter sole that offers maximum proprioception.

Brooks brings its new Pure Drift, part of its new Pure 2 line, which is lighter and more flexible than anything else in the Pure line. The product features a natural wrap of the foot, built on an anatomical last, and has the Pure Project’s signature Nav Band technology prominent on the outer part of the upper.

--Ana Trujillo

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