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FiveFingers® for your feet?

Scott & White Podiatrist Talks About The Minimalist Shoe Trend And How To Run In Them Safely

barefootEvery year Americans spend billions of dollars on running shoes. Companies that sell these shoes promise improved athletic ability with limited injury.

But despite our dependency on our favorite pair of sneakers, a new trend is emerging among runners and athletes. They are called minimalist shoes and they offer a more natural running experience.

“When I was young, we didn’t have the running shoes that had all of the bulk in the sole,” said podiatrist J. Marshall Devall, DPM, Scott & White – Temple Santa Fe Clinic. “But despite all of the advances [in shoe technology], there hasn’t been a sufficient reduction in injuries.”

There’s no clear evidence as to why this is the case, but one would have to think that it might be the shoes, Dr. Devall said.

“So, people have recently [suggested] that running with no shoes or at least the minimal shoes causes the foot to strengthen more,” he said. “It’s not heel-to-toe, so there’s no need for the big, cushioned heel.”

“You have to learn to use them because they’re completely different [than running shoes]…you have to adopt a land-on-the-bottom-of-the-foot gait and not on the heel.”

There are certain joints that are more stable when the foot comes down plantar-flexed instead of when you hit heel stride, but the podiatrist said researchers don’t know yet if minimalist shoes cause or reduce injuries.

Are minimalist shoes, like the Vibram FiveFingers®  shoes, safe for the average person?

“I think they are safe to run in, but you have to learn to use them because they’re completely different [than running shoes],” Dr. Devall said. “They don’t have any padding, and you have to adopt a land-on-the-bottom-of-the-foot gait and not on the heel.”

What should consumers know before purchasing this type of shoe?

“If you’re wearing them to climb rocks and to make a fashion statement, then you may not have to worry as much,” he said. “But if you’re actually going to run in them, quite a bit of training has to be done. And it might not be appropriate for all surfaces.”

If you’re a serious runner, Dr. Devall said, running 50 or 60 miles a week, then you will probably have enough time to train your foot to run in a minimalist shoe. But if you’re an every other day runner or a walker, then you may not adjust as quickly or at all.

“Right now, there’s no evidence that suggests that it’s better to wear [minimalist shoes],” he said. “It’s just like any shoe that my patient’s wear—like the Z-CoiLs or the Shape-Ups—if you really want to buy a pair, buy them, wear them around the house and make sure they’re really for you.”

For more information about minimalist shoe research, go to the American Podiatric Medical Association’s site.

Have you tried minimalist running shoes? What has been your experience? Would you recommend them to someone else?

About the author

Jessa McClure
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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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FiveFingers® for your feet?