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'Show me that shoe which fits like a glove'


HAPPY FEET The Vibram Five Fingers is the latest fad to hit running

Time was when shopping for a branded pair of trainers entailed an entire plan of action. Buying a pair of shoes was always an act of pleasure. Today, if you add method then it takes a different dimension.

Ask any runner worth his sweaty running vest, and he would tell you that running shoes are to be bought. . . well...in the evening. Not that it is meant to be auspicious, but it is because feet are at their largest in the evening hours.

Shoes are one of the most important components in a runner's shopping list.

Earlier, shoes were bought for looks, now a new runner is advised to do a wet-feet test to determine what type his foot is - neutral, high arch or flat.

Along with the culture of running, it is the shoe market that has grown by leaps and bounds. Conversation threads on how to buy a pair of shoes are constants in social and media websites. Barely three years ago, when this correspondent went to an outlet, the shop floor assistant pointed at a pair of tennis sneakers and suggested, "You can run in this too sir. " Not anymore.
Nike India marketing director Sanjay Gangopadhyay explains, "The end consumer is definitely very intelligent and our focus has been to provide them with technologically advanced products. "

Both Nike and Adidas are the big players in the market but the entry of Asics in June 2010 has seen many converts.

The big players are unwilling to reveal how much in terms of estimates though Tushar Gokuldas, brand director, Adidas says that the sale of running shoes are in the high double digits. "Running shoes fall in the generic market. Even a cricketer or a football player will buy a pair of running shoes - some buy it for the comfort and feel. Despite that we have felt the growth of the running shoes. "

But new entrants, the minimalist shoe, should make both the big players slightly nervous. Minimalism is the new buzzword in the running world especially after Christopher McDougall's path-breaking book on barefoot running Born to Run spoke about how the Tarahumara Indians ran hundred of miles in basic footwear.

McDougall's book argues that running barefoot or with minimal cushioning helps a runner overcome injuries and also run faster. The point he makes is that the human foot has inbuilt cushioning in the form of the forefoot which acts as a level and absorbs the impact from gravitational forces.

Many in the running world have bought that argument and switched over from proper cushioned shoes to the barefoot method of running. Among India's celebrity runners - there are a few - Milind Soman now runs in the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF), which fits like a glove on the foot, giving the runner protection from the tiny pebbles on the road.

So is the minimal shoe (proper shoes but with virtually no cushioning) in the form of vivobarefoot. com. Minimalist shoes come with swanky designs and are now available in India (www. highline. in).

With the interest in running growing with every passing year, the battle on this front has only just begun. Watch your step, but don't be afraid to take it.

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