A new study finds that five finger barefoot-style running shoes may increase a runner’s risk of foot bone injury.
While dedicated barefoot runners may scoff at the news, the research does provide evidence supporting the suggestion that those transitioning from traditional running shoes to barefoot-style shoes take it slow — very slow.
In the study, to be published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, US researchers enlisted healthy recreational runners into two groups. One group continued their normal running routine in traditional running shoes, while the other group switched to five finger running shoes.
The researchers also took MRIs of the runners’ feet both before and after the study. While there were no differences after the study in the runners’ soft tissue, the bone readings told a different story. The MRIs examined bone marrow edema, which is the excess fluid in bone marrow that can be a tell-tale sign of injury. Results showed that 10 out of the 19 runners in the five finger group had a foot bone injury, compared to one out of the 17 runners in the traditional running shoe group. Two out of the 10 injured five finger runners developed stress fractures.
For those who want to run in five fingers, or other barefoot-style runners, the researchers recommend taking even longer than 10 weeks to transition into the shoes.
Also, experts recommend that you stick with traditional footwear if you’re overweight. And if you are suffering from any serious orthopaedic ailments, opt for something more supportive instead. Runners with biomechanically disadvantaged feet need the kind of footwear that can support those issues. That means if you have overpronate, supinate or poor forefoot stability, you’ll need proper footwear to set you straight.
The best way to find out if you fall into this category or not is to visit a specialty running store for an examination of your running style.