Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Running Shoe Companies Love the Minimalist Shoe Movement Because It Makes Them More Money

Yes, the cynical R's that you know and love is back with a new post.

So a couple days ago, as I purchased a spanking new pair of Mizuno Wave Riders, I pondered the fact that they kept getting lighter and lighter with every new iteration. For years, the general group-think has been that lighter shoes are better. Less weight to carry around with every step means less energy expended, faster times, fewer injuries, etc. Makes sense as far as it goes. And of course, with the minimalist running trend (can I just call it a "fad"?) making people insane about lighter and lighter shoes with no drop and little support, that idea that a light shoe is a good shoe has been amplified to 11. Never mind that studies about such things are few and far between and vague on conclusions.

To see why the big running shoe companies, such as Nike, Asics, Mizuno, etc, LOVE the minimalist movement and pander to minimalist thinking, let's estimate some numbers:

-First, all of these numbers were found with about 5 seconds of Google searching, so don't take them as gospel.
-Nike sells around 120 million shoes a year, with almost 90% of them running shoes. I'll be tight with the number and say Nike sells 100 million pairs of running shoes a year. Personally, I think they're trying to make them all lighter, but we'll say of those 100 million, Nike is actively trying to make 80% of their running shoes lighter on a regular basis. So that's 80 million pairs of shoes a year, just with Nike.

Now let's look at the weight of an average running shoe. We're going to look at the Mizuno Wave Rider because that's what I wear and I have all the weight numbers.

-Wave Rider 15 / 11.1 oz / $ 115
-Wave Rider 16 / 10 oz / $115
-Wave Rider 17 / 8.6 oz / $115

Now let's really half-ass this experiment and mix the Nike and Mizuno numbers up. If we assume Nike is making their shoes lighter much like Mizuno, and they are, then over three years, we've dropped the equivalent of 240 million oz. or about 15 million pounds.

Think about that. They're using 15 million pounds less of material. Every year. And that's only Nike. The other shoe companies are using far less material as well.

Yet the cost of the shoes never goes down.

And as someone who worked in purchasing for a manufacturing company, believe me when I say the material costs are a huge driver to the bottom line.

The sad thing is losing a pound of weight off your body would make a much bigger difference than losing an ounce of your running shoes, but we still love to focus on the shoes.

Obviously, I'm no scientist and I have no idea how good all these numbers are, but here's what I think: when you're shopping for your next pair of running shoes, keep in mind that not every change a shoe manufacturer makes is to improve the performance of your shoes. Be a smart shopper out there.

Even if minimalist shoes are fading back away, don't expect the big shoe manufacturers to give up on the "less is more theory." It makes them money.

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