Minimalist Running Shoes - Pros & Cons
Barefoot running and minimalist running shoes are becoming quite the trend these days. If you are not quite sure what to think about it, read this article by Lewis Maharam, M.D. in the NY Daily News and decide for yourself if you'd like to give it a try. Simply click the link below or read it right here:
Minimalist Running Shoes
Dear Running Doc: I am 45 years old and thinking of trying to run barefoot or use a minimalist running shoe.
I run 45 miles a week currently with a structured shoe. I run three marathons a year. I have not been injured but I heard training my foot to run without a running shoe strengthens it and prevents injury. What do you think? Jessica, NYC
Thanks Jessica for the question I get every day in my office. Time to let everyone benefit from the simple answer. If you are running well, not injured, and doing the mileage you want, don't change a thing. The saying "if it's not broke, don't fix it" applies to athletes. If you were getting lower extremity or back injuries we might have a totally different discussion.
Barefoot and minimalist running shoes, yes, are one of the latest trends in running gear. It's been suggested that this type of footwear can strengthen the muscles that aren't used when wearing traditional running shoes, causing the arch of the foot to become higher and subsequently reduce knee, soft tissue, and related injuries.
In a session presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's 60th Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Sarah Ridge, Ph.D., of Brigham Young University, and her colleagues discussed their investigation of minimalist running shoes and arch height.
Dr. Ridge said: "Transitioning from running in traditional running shoes to minimalist running shoes should increase muscle strength of the intrinsic foot muscles. Strength of these muscles can be difficult to measure; however, increased arch height could be an effect of increased strength. Therefore, we measured arch height before and after 10 weeks of transitioning to minimalist running shoes. However, our results showed no difference in arch height after the 10 weeks in either group."
In their recent study, 10 weeks of transitioning to minimalist running shoes did not cause a significant change in neutral or standing arch height, concluding that the effect of minimalist running on arch height and/or injury rates is either negligible or requires a longer exposure time for significant effects.
Dr. Ridge went on to say: "Anecdotally, we often hear that runners who wore orthotics, then transitioned to barefoot or minimalist running no longer need their orthotics -- suggesting that arch height has increased. Our results do not support that, but it may take longer than 10 weeks of beginning to run in minimalist running shoes before we'd see an effect on the arch height."
She said her study creates an opportunity for future research on this topic in order to create a safe, effective guideline for runners to have a better understanding of the intrinsic foot muscles' response to minimalist running.
In my practice, if a patient comes in to me with a history of lower extremity injuries, over-pronating feet that require structured shoes and/or orthotics asks if they should switch to minimalist running my answer is not a complete "NO."
High mileage runners should not go full blast into minimalist gear (or barefoot) but try one or two short runs per week like this and still do their long runs with structure. Then if no further injury, a slow transition can be attempted.
But going all-in for minimalist shoes will guarantee more frequent visits to see me!
LEWIS G. MAHARAM, M.D.
Lewis G. Maharam is one of the world's most extensively credentialed and well-known sports health experts. Better known as Running Doc™, Maharam is author of Running Doc's Guide to Healthy Running and is past medical director of the NYC Marathon and Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series. He is medical director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program. He is also past president of the New York Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine. Learn more at runningdoc.com.
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