New research from Brigham Young University over in the U.S. this week has suggested that barefoot running may surprisingly enough be bad for new runners.
The findings say 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, with women far more susceptible than men.
Barefoot running has mushroomed in popularity over the last decade, helped in no small part by Christopher McDougall’s much-respected tome Born to Run, telling of his experience with a remote Mexican tribe who run only in basic sandals. Brands like Vibrams have done extremely well with lucrative shoes and other products, and the market has grown exponentially based on runner’s desires to experience new kinds of fitness.
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.
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.
But these findings are perhaps not too surprising, as many converts often push themselves too quickly in order to try and get results. It takes a significant amount of time to alter your body’s natural running style and rhythm, especially if you’ve had years of experience with standard cushioned shoes. Based on personal experience it takes time to adapt, so you need to give your feet time to change and develop based on the different style.