Is this a ‘Fadotomy’?

Until five minutes ago, I had never heard of the word ‘Fadotomy’. A fadotomy is apparently the anatomy of the transformation of a fad into the prevailing paradigm… well at least that is what one reference I could find called it, so I doubt it is going to be come the prevailing vernacular as a topic of analysis. Thomas Kuhn in 1962 probably gave what was one of the better analyses of ‘revolutions’ and paradigm shifts in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Here is the Wikipedia page that explains the theory. I used it as a framework for an analysis that is somewhat dated now, but its does show what a powerful explanatory tool it can be.

I only delved into this as the Google trends search tool for ‘barefoot running’ continues to show the declining interest in it:


This records the trend in the number of searches that people have made for ‘barefoot running’ over time.

Think back to the changes that were predicted as going to occur due to ‘barefoot running’. I recall the debates about if this was a fad, a trend or a paradigm shift. I guess now with hindsight, it was a fad. Is the above graph a ‘fadotomy’? … ie the anatomy of a fad.

There is no doubt that the fad has made an impression. The range of running shoes has never been greater and the increased focus on form or technique is a positive thing. But it did not go on to become the prevailing paradigm that was predicted by the evangelists. In reality the opposite is now happening with, for example, the Hoka One One super cushioned maximalist running shoes, as a brand, now outselling the entire minimalist category of running shoes. Runners have voted with their feet. Is that going to be another fad, trend or will it be a paradigm shift?

What I find interesting as an observer and commentator on all this is that the barefoot/minimalist trend was (and still is) driven by a lot of evangelists, websites, forums, books, lectures and magazine articles, all promising a huge range of benefits (that was and still is not supported by the scientific evidence). The trend to the maximalist running shoes is just being driven by runners buying them and liking them. There are no evengelists, forums, books, lectures or magazine articles driving maximalism. I have only come across one article (poorly written) on one website promoting maximalism! (there are a number of articles and forums posts describing maximalism, but that is a far cry from the failed evangelizing that was and still is promoting barefoot/minimalism).

As always, I go where the evidence takes me until convinced otherwise, and the above Google trends graph shows that the whole barefoot movement was a fad and people have lost interest in it.

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6 Responses to Is this a ‘Fadotomy’?

  1. Ian Morales January 3, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

    Cocaine also sells itself. Whether a product sells itself or not has no bearing on its usefulness. Suppose we made the same argument you make about maximalist shoes about Coca-Cola, or cigarettes back in the day. When people vote with their taste buds and not their heads, health suffers.

    I’m not making an argument in favor of minimalist shoes, but against your biased and fallacious (or just flawed) line of argument.

    • Craig Payne January 3, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

      I not sure I understand what you mean by my biased opinion:

      1. That graph is from Google; its not my opinion. It clearly show the rise and fall in the interest in barefoot running. if that is not a fad, then what is it?

      2. The sales of minimalist running shoes has fallen to around 3% of the market. That is not my biased opinion; that is what the sales figures are showing. How do you explain all the predictions from years ago that minimalist shoes was going to “take over the world”?

      3. The Hoka One One shoes are now outselling the entire minimalist category. That is not my biased opinion. Check the sales figures. How do you explain that, if the big bulky shoes are supposed to be so evil?

      4. There was a massive upsurge in injuries when the interest in barefoot/minimalist running got going. That s not my biased opinion. Just ask clinicians involved in treating injuries. It was an ‘economic stimulus package’ as it happened at the same time as the global financial crisis.

      5. Where are all the injuries that are supposed to occur as Hokas and other big bulky shoes are supposed to be so evil? That is not my biased opinion. Just ask clinicians who treat a lot of running injuries – they just not occurring with at the same level that happened with barefoot/minimalism.

      I guess all those who so firmly ‘hung their hats’ on barefoot/minimalism solving all the worlds problems are now in the embarrassing position of being wrong….as part of the rationalizing of that, have to attack me for being biased rather than face that they were wrong with all the claims that they made, that the scientific evidence never did and still does not support (that is not my biased opinion – all 12 of the formal systematic reviews and meta-analyses of all the evidence has concluded that).

      BTW, I first “wrote” the above post in my head while out on a run in my minimalist shoes! I also have not once promoted “maximalism”.

      • sporks January 8, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

        What’s your source for the sales data? I have a really hard time believing that there are more Hoka’s being sold than Nike Free, say.

        • Craig Payne January 8, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

          The data is from Leisure Trends who put the minimalist category at the run specialty level at ~$30 million in USA and declining (that excluded the Nike Free sold outside the run specialty as most are not used for running). Analysts have put Hoka sales for 2014 at ~$35miliion and predicted at $150 million for 2015 – most of that is at the run specialty level.

  2. BenArmitage June 10, 2016 at 11:25 pm #

    I’ve been ploughing my way through a lot of your posts recently and am left with a nagging question: If you, ‘go where the evidence takes you’ why is barefoot running a bug bear of yours?

    You have number of posts which cite studies finding no evidence that barefoot running is either better or worse than conventionally shod running. Why then, is special criticism reserved for barefoot running as a ‘fad’ and the same cynicism not also given to conventional running shoes. Sure, Vibram couldn’t prove its claim that the five fingers reduce injury rates, but conventional shoe manufacturers are cleverer than vibrate and don’t even make the claim in the first place.

    I am fully with you on the need for a prospective randomised controlled study (I’m happy to volunteer for it) to give us the answer we are really looking for but for now the barefoot hypothesis seems to as good as its opposite number. And that fact alone is startling when you consider that conventional shoes are result of >20 years of development and are sold specifically for the purpose of running. It seems reasonable to expect that a tool sold for a specific purpose actually helps you perform that job, rather than leaving you just as well off as without it.

    To be fair, I understand that many fanboys make claims that barefoot is ‘better’, and that it not supported by the evidence. However, the inverse is also true. The ubiquity of conventional running shoes gives many people the impression that they are ‘better’ – something which is likewise not supported by any evidence

    • Craig Payne June 10, 2016 at 11:35 pm #

      “Barefoot running” is not a particular ‘bugbear’ of mine. I rile against any claims that are contradicted by the scientific evidence. It just so happens that so many who are evangelical about barefoot running repeatedly make stuff up that is and was contradicted by the actual scientific evidence. That is all. They lied.

      I have been critical of the claims made for running shoes for >30 yrs too.

      The evidence is now clear that there are no systematic advantages of barefoot or shod running. The injury rates are the same. Same with different running techniques and foot strike patterns – the injury rates are the same. Anyone claiming otherwise can expect to be called out on it as they are just making that up.

      Interest in barefoot running has now fallen back to the level it was before ‘Born-to-Run’ was published.
      Sales of minimalist running shoes have been languishing at around 2-3% of the running specialty market for the last yr or so and my latest attempt to get the sales figures was greeted with a “they now barely even register” in the figures.
      If that was not a fad that is now over, then what is? Runners have voted with their feet.

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