Over the past few years, minimalist running has been in the news quite a bit. There are a variety of takes on when and how it should be used. We have written several blogs over that time warming of some of the simple dangers and the best way we see to approach it. Our last blog on this topic even discussed how you can have the best of both worlds utilizing orthosis and barefoot running. With all the discussion out there, there are a limited number of studies to draw hard conclusions from. Likewise, many doctors have noticed an increased trend in certain types of foot injury that are correlating to barefoot running.
An article from the health section of the NY Times last month highlighted one of the latest studies concerning barefoot running. A Utah radiologist noticed an increase in foot x-rays due to injuries after barefoot running. With the help of an exercise scientist they set up a study to verify the correlation. The short of it is that they took 36 people who where regular runners and used a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to exam the bones and soft tissues of their feet. They were found to have no pre-existing injuries and divided into two groups. Half remaining in their normal running routine and the other half were given minimalist running shoes to begin using gradually over the first four weeks of the study. After the remaining 6 weeks, or 10 weeks total, all the runners had their feet examined with the MRI. While none of the runners complained of heel pain or other specific problems, it was noticed that the ‘barefoot’ group logged less miles than the shod group.
The most interesting part of the experiment was the changes found on MRI that showed early stages of bone injury, or stress fracture, in almost 50% of the ‘barefoot’ group. In comparison, none of the shoed runners had these changes. It would be unethical to have the runners continue until actual injury occurs but one could speculate where this could lead. We want to offer a word of caution with barefoot running. Remember to start gradually and build up to more time striking with your forefoot. Stop if it becomes painful and seek out your Austin podiatrist to prevent further problems.