Trends are everywhere in the clothing and shoe business. Within the last 7-10 years, the newest trend in shoes is the minimalist movement. Shoes are lighter, thinner and smaller and every brand, store and cobbler is on board. Within the workout community, sneakers have been one of the main targets for the minimalist shift. The vibram five finger shoes were huge when they first came out and I remember seeing them everywhere. Books were published touting the efficiency and better form associated with "barefoot running" or "natural running" attributed to the professional Kenyan and south African runners.
But, the real question is, is this the best thing for training? I see many patients in the office who have tried to make the switch, but end up injuring themselves. To run in a minimalist shoe, the running form has to shift from a heel strike, to a forefoot strike. For many people, this will take significant time and training to properly perform. A newer athlete will likely not have the proper muscle tone or form to adequately execute higher intensity workouts, and this can lead to injury. As I tell patients, every foot is different, so by seeing a sports medicine specialist, he or she can tell you how to properly train and condition your body while suggesting appropriate foot wear to allow for less stress on your joints. As your running pattern changes, most people can then begin to transition to lighter shoes. Remember loyal readers: listen to your body. It will tell you if you are pushing too hard, too fast, or too long.