Trend: Minimalist Sneakers
Try-It Rating: 3/5
Several years ago, scores of serious runners traded their cushioned sneakers for shoes with skimpier support. The thinking is that old-school running shoes, with their thick heels and pillowy padding, interfere with foot mechanics and hamper performance.
Now casual exercisers are getting in on the kick. In the second half of 2012, sales of minimalist sneakers—characterized by thin soles, ultra-lightweight uppers, and in some cases, separated toes—rose about 50 percent over 2011, says Matt Powell, a market analyst with SportOneSource. But unless you've worked with a trainer on how to move in minimalist shoes, they might not be safe for high-impact pursuits such as tennis and Zumba, says running coach Jason Karp, Ph.D., coauthor of Running for Women (Human Kinetics, 2012).
"These activities produce a lot of force on the lower body, especially if you're carrying extra pounds," he says. "If you land wrong in a shoe with little support, you could injure your ankle, Achilles tendon, and more."
And if you have an irregular gait—say, your feet tend to roll inward—minimalist shoes won't provide the stability you need, he adds. Otherwise, for low-impact activities such as walking and strength training, Karp says minimalist shoes are fine provided they fit right and feel good on your feet.
Continued on page 4: Buying Better Sleep