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Looking at the new running shoes unveiled by Spanish start-up FBR you would be forgiven for thinking it incomplete, but the missing heel in the sole is actually by design.
Athletic trainer Franc Beneyto came up with the idea for a heelless running shoe five years ago, after reading the book “Running with the Kenyans”, by Adharanand Finn, a journalist and amateur runner who lived for a few months in Kenya with athletes and coaches to investigate why they were able to run more, faster and get injured less frequently than others. In the book, Finn wrote that Kenyans had refined a natural running technique that didn’t require the support of the heel, but instead relied on the Achilles tendon, plantar arch, soleus and calf muscle. That got him thinking, and one day he just cut off the heel of a running shoe to see what running in it would feel like.
Beneyto took a knife and cut off the heel cushioning of the running shoes “at an anatomically strategic point to allow good mobility in the ankle” and went out for a run. The trainer and project director at FBR describes the sensation of running without the support of the heel as ‘incredible’.
“The feeling of power and freedom were incredible,” Beneyto told Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “The ankle acted like a spring that catapulted me forward with every step, so I just decided that I had to implement this concept as it was.”
A few months later, Beneyto met Javier Gámez, a renowned doctor in biomechanics who recognized the potential of his heelless running shoe concept and proposed to have it analyzed at Sheffield Hallam University, in England, one of the best academic institutions in the world in sports engineering. The FBR shoe was compared to other conventional running shoes, and the results were so surprising that they were presented at various international Biomechanics and Podiatry congresses.
The Faculty of Physiotherapy of Valencia began testing the FBR concept on injured athletes, and the results of their research were equally impressive.
“Runners with various ailments returned to train normally after a progressive use of FBR prototypes thanks to the minimization of the impact of each footprint and a favorable change in their technique,” El Mundo reported.
So what makes the FBR heelless shoe so special? Well, Beneyto says that it promotes a running technique supported by the metatarsal, which prevents joint injuries, whereas modern conventional running shoes incorporate more and more cushioning back, which modifies our natural way of running and makes injuries more frequent.
“The cushioning does not eliminate the impact, it only decreases a bit and it continues to damage the joints,” Beneyto said.
FBR(Faster & Better Runners) was founded by Franc Beneyto in collaboration with a team of researchers in biomechanics, designers, podiatrists, physiotherapists, lawyers, journalists and athletic trainers. Beneyto said that the decision to create their own company to produce the heelless running shoe was taken after numerous companies, both Spanish and foreign showed little interest in developing it.
“We knocked on the doors of the main sports brands, both Spanish and foreign, to develop them, but many did not answer, so with great effort, we have managed to manufacture them in the Alicante area (Spain)” the entrepreneur said.
A pair of FBR heelless running shoes costs 139 euros ($158) and can be purchased via the FBR website.