The Truth Behind Minimalist Shoes


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I'm sure by now, everyone has seen or heard of the running shoes that literally look like toe socks.  These minimalist shoes have "run" onto the fitness scene and more and more people are turning to them, instead of the traditional tennis shoes; however, is this type of shoe actually beneficial for your feet? 

vibrams.jpg

Those who like the minimalist approach believe that they allow them to stay injury free and even make working out easier and more enjoyable.  In an article on the New York Times Blog from June 2013, it discussed a study that looked into minimalist shoes and if landing on the forefoot of the foot as do runners in minimalist shoes, are more efficient than those who hit the heel first.  It stated, "Without the heel cushioning provided by standard running shoes, barefoot proponents say, runners will gravitate naturally toward landing lightly near the balls of the feet.  And they should, most proponents add, because landing near the front of the foot will require less oxygen and effort and allow you to push harder at any given speed and ultimately run faster or longer."

While that seemed to be a good idea the same article on the NY Times, later discussed a study done at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which fitted volunteers for shoes and had them run hitting the ground with the heel first and then the forefoot first. The results concluded that heel striking (regular running shoes) was better for runners and allowed for less oxygen usage. 

So while the stereotypical tennis shoes seem to be more suitable for running, minimalist shoes do seem to have a place when it comes to cross-training activities such as CrossFit.  In this article from the Washingtonian.com in 2012, it discussed how minimalist shoes are ideal for more flexibility and allow your foot to pivot when doing exercise such as lateral movements, box jumps, burpees, etc.

That same article from the Washingtonian.com also mentioned that minimalist shoes can help to strengthen the feet and ankles, which in return can reduce your risk of injury.   

Before you beeline it to the shoe store, do some research. I own a pair of each type of shoe and can say that this research is consistent with my experience. Running shoes are for running and minimalist shoes are for cross-training. No matter what opinions people try to push on you, I think it is crucial to test them out before you buy them. The minimalist shoes definitely take some getting used to, but after easing your way into them, they work great. 

Despite gaining more popularity minimalist shoes still are not the end all be all of shoes. Just like everything, they have their time and place and those looking to invest in this type of shoe, should make sure it's the right fit for you and the type of activity you plan on doing. 


Photo from: http://www.kirainet.com/english/vibram-fivefingers/

2 Comments

You know its interesting you bring this topic up because a few years back the "shape up" was introduced. To me, they looked like the most ridiculous shoes out there, but other people didn't seem to mind their look because of their benefits. One of the benefits being a better looking butt and legs. Heres my logic, whats the point of having a good looking lower body when you're going to be looking crazy with those shoes anyways? Anyways, recently there has been some research done to put this shoe to rest, well i hope so anyways, by proving it wrong. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/17/skecher-shape-ups_n_1524714.html heres an article going more in depth as to exactly why they don't work.

I've seen a lot of people use these shoes! They always confused me as to their benefits, especially because I have a high arch and even normal shoes don't offer me the support I need. Therefore, I use arch supports in my tennis shoes, otherwise running will give me a sharp pain in my foot. I also am questioning the comfort of having your toes separated like that. I've tried socks with toes, and find them uncomfortable. The toe socks were a lot like this: http://www.toesox.com Who knew there was such a market for these?

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