Recent research has found that 74% of competitive cross-country runners experience moderate to severe injuries. Many footwear companies continue to claim that their running shoes will lessen injury and are better for runners. One such type of shoe is the “minimalist footwear”, which is designed to mimic a more natural running style. Runners looking to increase endurance and performance and decrease injuries turned to these minimalist shoes; however, reports of injuries and research investigating the shoes soon followed.
Runners and practitioners need to focus on the biomechanics behind minimalist footwear, in addition to the runners’ transition to this type of shoe. One major biomechanic contributor is the foot-strike pattern, or how the foot strikes the ground. Runners typically fall under rearfoot, midfoot, or forefoot-strike; those that utilize minimalist footwear likely have a forefoot-strike, which often leads to lower impact.
Researchers found that one main concern is the transition period. Many runners developed injuries, including one study of ten patients, uninjured over the past year, who transitioned to minimalist footwear. In the transition year, injuries included eight metastarsal stress fractures, one calcaneal stress fracture, and a plantar fascia rupture.
Along with lower impact, there are benefits of minimalist footwear, particularly after the transition period. For example, a 2016 study found that the foot muscle volume after six months of minimalist footwear use increased significantly. The muscle volume in the leg and the forefoot increased, though the transition was completed alongside an exercise program directed at the calf muscles.
Runners are often looking for ways to improve their endurance and performance. There are both risks and benefits of minimalist footwear, all of which can be discussed at Alpine Foot Specialists. Those that are looking to increase their foot and ankle strength could benefit from minimalist footwear, though there are risks of injury. If you are looking to make the switch, schedule an appointment with our podiatrists; we can discuss changes in foot strike and impact forces, potential injuries and how to be proactive during the transition.
Courtesy of: Lower Extremity Review
Volume 9, Number 6