To Boldly Toe: ToPo Athletic Split Foot Trainers Are More Science Than Gimmick

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by Simon Usborne The Independent

     

The man who tried to convince runners everywhere to liberate their toes in trainers that look silly is offering a new kind of digital separation. This time Tony Post, former boss of rubber-sole and barefoot-running firm, Vibram, is trading in five fingers for two toes.

His new range of ToPo Athletic trainers are less like gloves for feet and more like hooves, separating the big toe from the little ones with a rather unsightly slot. What does Post have against toe unity and what inspired his obsession?

Post first showed off an alternative approach to footwear when he ran the 1990 New York marathon wearing pair of leather dress shoes made by Rockport, where he was vice president. By then split-toe shoes were already a thing. In Japan, tabi socks and, later, jika-tabi shoes have been supported by everyone from Ninjas to builders for centuries.

Onitsuka, the Japanese trainer company now owned by running giants, Asics, made a modern tabi-inspired running shoe back in the 50s. They were worn by Shigeki Tanaka when the runner won the Boston Marathon in 1951, but then fell out of favour.

Nike, chief trainer pioneers, developed the cloven Air Rifts in the late 1990s but even its marketing might failed to elevate the shoes out of a niche. Vibram faced similar scepticism with its FiveFingers range but their modest success under Post helped create a minor boom in running barefoot or in minimal trainers.

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