Franc Beneyto, the athletic trainer, came up with the idea of creating a heelless shoe nearly five years ago after reading the book “Running with Kenyans” by Adharanand Finn. He was a journalist and amateur runner who lived in Kenya for few months with athletes and coaches to find why and how they were able to run more, and faster than others and also get injured less frequently. Finn wrote in the book that Kenyans refined a natural running technique which didn’t need the support of a heel but relied on the Achilles tendon, plantar arch, soleus, and calf muscle. This intrigued him and one day he decided to cut the heel of a running shoe to see how running in a shoe like this will feel like.
Beneyto cut off the heel cushioning of the running shoes using a knife at an anatomically strategic point to allow good mobility in the ankle and went for a run. The trainer and project director at FBR described the feeling of running without the support of the heel as ‘incredible.’ Beneyto told the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, “The feeling of power and freedom were incredible. 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.”
After some time, he met Javier Gamez, a renowned doctor in biomechanics who also saw the potential of his heelless running shoe concept and proposed to have the design analyzed at Sheffield Hallam University, England. This is one of the best academic institutions in the world for sports engineering. The FBR heelless shoe was compared to other conventional running shoes, and the results were surprising. The results were presented at many biomechanics and podiatry congresses. The faculty of Physiotherapy of Valencia started testing the FBR concept on injured athletes, and their findings were also really impressive. El Mundo reported, “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.”
According to Beneyto, the shoe promotes a running technique which is supported by the metatarsal and prevents joint injuries. While the modern conventional running shoes have more and more cushioning at the back, this hinders the natural way of running and makes the injuries much more frequent. Beneyto said, “The cushioning does not eliminate the impact, it only decreases a bit, and it continues to damage the joints.”
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 his own company to develop heelless shoes was taken when several companies in Spain and other countries showed little to no interest in developing it. He said, “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).”