Beware of trendy barefoot running shoes – you could end up with broken bones in your foot

By Anna Hart

  • Advocates of barefoot running claim it can reduce injuries and back pain
  • ‘Minimalist’ shoes such as these now account for 15% of sales
  • But experts say many people suffer injuries by overdoing it early on
  • Runners should make transition from regular trainers more slowly, they say

barefoot running

It has become one of the latest running crazes, said to reduce the risk of injuries and back pain.

But experts have warned that the growing number of runners using ‘barefoot’ five-finger running shoes could very easily end up injured.

Researchers at Brigham Young University in the U.S found that runners who make the switch from normal trainers to barefoot shoes too quickly suffered an increased risk of injury to bones in the foot, including possible stress fractures.

Women were particularly at risk of injuries, they found.

The researchers say the findings are particularly concerning given that minimalist shoes such as these now make up 15 per cent of the running shoe market.

Advocates of barefoot running claim that footwear constricts our feet and inhibits natural movement, leaving us prone to injuries, pain and postural problems.

While some runners completely lose the shoes, others opt for minimal coverage.

Barefoot running shoes are act like a glove for the feet and are designed to protect them from glass and other hazards on the ground.

While the shoes themselves may not be harmful, it is the transition from them to regular trainers that is often the problem.

‘Transitioning to minimalist shoes is definitely stressful to the bones,’ said Sarah Ridge, lead author and assistant professor of exercise science at BYU. ‘You have to be careful in how you transition and most people don’t think about that; they just want to put the shoes on and go.’

The research, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, studied 36 experienced runners over a 10-week period.

Each runner first underwent an MRI scan on their feet prior to the study period. Half of the runners were then asked to gradually transition into five-finger minimalist shoes while the other half continued to run in traditional running shoes.

Subjects in the experimental group followed the suggested guidelines. They did one short (1-2 mile) run in the minimalist shoes the first week, and added an additional short run each week so that they ran at least three miles in the new shoes by week three.

They were then told to add mileage in the minimal shoes as they felt comfortable, with the goal of replacing one short run per week in traditional shoes with the new shoes.

At the end of the 10-week period, MRIs were again conducted. The MRIs revealed that those who had done more running in the minimalist shoes suffered a greater number of injuries and inflammation.

Advocates of barefoot running claim that footwear constricts our feet and inhibits natural movement, leaving us prone to injuries, pain and postural problems.

‘Whenever a bone is impacted by running (or some other repetitive action), it goes through a normal remodeling process to get stronger,’ said Dr Ridge said.

‘Injury occurs when the impact is coming too quickly or too powerfully, and the bone doesn’t have a chance to properly remodel before impact reoccurs.’

But she added that minimalist shoes aren’t necessarily bad.

Rather, to minimize the risk of injuries, runners should transition over a period of more than 10 weeks and while running fewer miles than normal.

‘People need to remember they’ve grown up their whole life wearing a certain type of running shoes and they need to give their muscles and bones time to make the change,” Johnson said. “If you want to wear minimalist shoes, make sure you transition slowly.”

Last year researchers warned that barefoot running shoes have led to a surge in injuries from pulled calf muscles to Achilles tendinitis, with some patients laid up for several months.

Foot specialists said many injuries resulted from switching from trainers to barefoot too quickly.

Shod runners tend to have a longer stride and land on their heel compared with barefoot runners, who are more likely to have a shorter stride and land on the midfoot or forefoot.

Injuries can occur when people put too much pressure on their calf and foot muscles, or don’t shorten their stride and end up landing on their heel with no padding.

Read the original article at:–end-broken-bones-foot.

In my own experience 10 weeks (mentioned in the trial) is no where near enough time to adapt to these shoes.  One to two years is more likely.  You will also have to cut your mileage when you wear barefoot shoes.  I think it is worth the effort though.  You do get fewer injuries and as your strength builds you run faster.

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