Point-Counterpoint: Minimalist Running Shoes: A Significant Advance Or Injuries Waiting To Happen?

Start Page: 46
Nicholas A. Campitelli, DPM, FACFAS, and Kevin A. Kirby, DPM

Questioning The Claims Of A Minimalist Shoe Company

Possibly because these types of running injuries do occur, minimalist running shoe company Vibram now faces accusations, in two class-action suits, of falsely advertising the health benefit claims of their shoes.10,11 Vibram advertised that its FiveFingers minimalist shoes did the following:

• strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs;
• improve range of motion in ankles, feet and toes;
• stimulate neural function, improving balance and agility; and
• align the spine and improve posture.

   To date, there is no scientific research that supports any of the advertised health claims of Vibram. In addition, possibly because of the difficulty people have transitioning to running in the FiveFingers running shoe, Vibram offers a 13-page “step-by-step guide” to shoe owners on how to run in their FiveFingers shoes without getting injured.12 No other shoe company in history has needed to provide its customers with such an extensive manual to prevent them from getting injured.

In Conclusion

“Minimalist running shoes” are neither a new idea nor a significant advance forward for runners since thin-soled, lightweight, low heel height differential running shoes have been continuously available as racing flats for years. In addition, a review of the available medical literature reveals no data that supports the notion that minimalist running shoes prevent injuries. Rather, the available research seems to support the fact that minimalist running shoes may lead to increased injury rates in runners.

   Even though the available scientific research is still unclear as to which type of running shoe will produce the fewest running injuries for each individual runner, what is clear is that the claims made by the barefoot and minimalist running shoe enthusiasts that wearing minimalist running shoes protects the runner from injury, at this time, seem to be highly improbable.

   Dr. Kirby is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Biomechanics at the California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt University.

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