There has been a lot of buzz lately about some research regarding the efficacy of pronation and motion-control shoes. While this isn’t the first round of papers to come out indicating that motion-control shoes are not effective, this particular study was partially funded and acknowledged by Nike. According to Gordon Valiant, Nike’s head of biomechanical research, “Our current approach of prescribing in-shoe pronation control systems on the basis of foot type is overly simplistic and potentially injurious.”
This is such a big deal because Nike is the largest seller of athletic footwear and apparel worldwide by sales. Any strategic move they might make will have a huge impact on the shoe market, and will likely influence the decision of other smaller players in the business.
Of course, Nike could have opted to just ignore the research results, and bury it under the sand with countless other misbegotten studies like those on the dangers of sugar and grains. With so many athletes and podiatrists waiting eagerly to buy and or sell any of the products that Nike makes, they could have easily maintained the status quo and still continue rake in millions of dollars in profits. Ah, but apparently you don’t become the number one athletic equipment company in the world by make dumb short-sided decisions.
Nike is in an excellent position to seize control of the massive amounts of confusion and bickering over the barefoot running and minimalist shoe movement, and look like they are an industry game changer, as opposed to a lead-footed relic. While companies like Vibram and Terra Plana have made great strides in the minimalist shoe market, vast amounts of people still worship at the altar of Nike (the company not the Greek goddess). If Nike suddenly owns up to the fact that motion-control shoes are bunk, while many of it’s legitimate competitors are still hedging that minimalist shoes are a fad, they have a unique opportunity to further enhance their hold on the market.
Of course, there will be plenty of sad panda podiatrists out there who will have their main income driver, the sale of motion control shoes, cut out from under them. It will be hard to continue prescribing such useless shoes to their patients when the world’s top shoe company admits that they are junk.