Barefoot Training?

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In light of the recent lawsuit loss of Vibram Five Finger’s shoes, I thought this would be a good discussion topic.  You can read the Huffington Post article detailing the suit here:

To recap, Vibram was involved in a class action suit where it was argued that they falsely claimed health benefits of their minimalist shoes and lost and is now forced to reimburse $3.75 million to their customers for these shoes. 

What’s my take on this? Frankly I’m a bit annoyed with all the ‘sheep’ out there pointing their fingers, saying, “See! We were right all along!” I still hold that there’s nothing wrong with the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF’S) and they do in fact have great health benefits if used correctly. The following study is the one used to help win the case:

The study above shows that people got stress fractures in the 10 week transition period for running in these shoes and in the conclusion it suggested that perhaps transition period for running in a minimalist shoe like the VFF should probably be a little longer. Let’s look at the mechanics of running. Our traditional running shoes are built on a high platform with ample padding around the heel and arches to minimise the impact force of the foot strike. The problem with this is that the profile of the shoe promotes a heel strike rather than a mid to forefoot strike in bare feet. When running in a bare feet the foot strike should be mid to fore foot and strides a little shorter. In the transition between the traditional runner vs a minimalist shoe is that most people don’t adapt to the different running style properly and still maintain the same running method as they would in the traditional runner causing great stress through impact. Another issue being that some people are doing too much too soon in the minimalist shoe. Being shod for years with a stable arch support and then suddenly running long distances in a minimalist shoe is a form of over training. You’re using muscles in your feet and legs that that don’t do as much work as when they are in a traditional shoe. To suddenly change the environment without sufficient time to allow for the proper neural muscle pattern to develop is insane.

The Examples of research on the other side of the debate are listed below:

What should you take from all of this? This case focuses only with minimalist shoes used for running long distances. It doesn’t talk about the VFFs being used for other forms of training. What you should take from this is that a minimalist shoe, if used properly, can yield great results, if used improperly, it can yield adverse results. In this case it’s really all about the transition. 


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