A minimalist running (MR) shoe or barefoot running shoes are simply a type of shoe gear defined as the following. ”Footwear providing minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot due to its high flexibility, low heel to toe drop, weight and stack height, and the absence of motion control and stability devices”. A number of researchers and shoe companies came up with the definition so that further research could be standardized. Recently a professor of mine published an article with regards to the internal musculature of the foot and MR’s. His research essentially measured the thickness of a muscle that helped to maintain the medial arch. His study showed that with MR type shoes an increase in muscle bulk was noted in all groups. This means that using this type of shoe will increase musculature to the foot thus may improve/prevent running injuries.
The study was well thought out but it still cannot factor in risk. Risk is an important point because the less cushion you have to the bottom of the foot the more impact and pressure occurs. A perfect example of this is soldiers in the armed forces that have to march every day for several miles. The boots that are provided by the US military are of adequate support but stress fractures still occur. Even with adequate support injuries can occur so that means if we start to run in shoes that have no cushion injuries are expected to happen. I think that the minimalist running shoes may work in environments that are soft e.g., grass and sand. But the majority of people do not run on these types of surfaces.
My advice is stick to a shoe that is comfortable with adequate support. A custom orthotic will help with proper functioning of the foot and this can be added to your shoe to better control foot function. If you are a runner and need more support please make an appointment today by calling 813-875-0555. The doctors at Advanced Podiatry know how to keep you running.