Selling the sole: media, mysticism, and the marketing of barefoot-inspired athletic footwear
Journal: Sport in Society
Shoe manufacturers reacted to the barefoot subculture of distance running that would proliferate in the mid-1990s by producing and aggressively marketing the ‘minimalist’ shoe. To overcome the paradox of selling a shoe that mimics running without footwear, we argue that shoe companies co-opt many of the symbols and identities that characterize the oppositional character of the barefoot running subculture. Our analysis seeks to identify the methods through which this process takes place in video advertisements for minimalist running shoes, focusing specifically on New Balance’s campaign for the Minimus featuring ultramarathon champion Anton Krupicka. This lucrative market has in effect mainstreamed the concept of barefoot running – a movement with roots tracing back to the 1970s – into mass consumer culture, a process that has commoditized its original principles of mysticism and anti-materialism to promote minimalist shoes.