Some claim that it is a fad, while other people say it is a revolution for athletes across the globe. However you feel about them, Vibram Five Fingers are here and do not look to be going away any time soon.
The craze surrounding natural running or minimalist running has been around for decades. It really caught on in the mainstream when companies like Vibram began offering special shoes. These shoes represent the best of both worlds. They provide all the benefits of running barefoot but add the safety of foot protection from things like glass and hot pavement.
Supporters of the barefoot running movement assert that humans have been running, and running well, since long before the invention of modern running shoes. The feet, ankles, knees and legs are designed to work together in a natural cadence that can be disrupted by the limitations of shoes. Natural running experts cite reports that overly padded shoes actually lead to more running injuries. This is because smaller problems, such as an incomplete range of motion, do not cause immediate pain or discomfort. The repetitive damage on tendons and muscles accumulates for years without the runner noticing.
Not all runners and trainers agree with the natural running philosophy. Critics state that minimalist shoes leave the athlete more prone to accidents and injuries, not less. Natural runners lose the protection of a well-fitting running shoe with cushion and flexibility. The consistent pounding of feet against pavement or hard trails while running places stress on the feet. Even with shoes, stress fractures are common among runners. Running without shoes or in minimalist shoes increases this risk.
The one point that both sides agree on is that overweight runners should stick to regular, padded running shoes. These runners especially require some impact-reduction so stress fractures can be avoided.
If you have questions about whether or not the natural running style is for you, contact a Santa Fe podiatrist. The staff of Foot & Ankle Associates work with athletes of all levels to determine what activities can keep you healthy while getting fit. You can order our Foot and Ankle Health Book, available for free online.