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Vibram FiveFingers may lead to foot bone injuries, says study

March 01, 2013

LOS ANGELES, March 1 — A new study finds that barefoot-style running shoes Vibram FiveFingers 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 Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, US researchers enlisted healthy recreational runners into two groups. One group continued their normal running routine in their traditional running shoes, while the other group switched to Vibram FiveFingers (picture). The FiveFingers group followed the shoemaker’s suggestions for safely transitioning into the shoes over a period of 10 weeks, starting with one short run (one to two miles) the first week and slowly adding distance in subsequent weeks. 

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, reports Runner’s World. 

The MRIs examined bone marrow edema, which is excess fluid in bone marrow that can be a tell-tale sign of injury. Results showed that 10 of the 19 runners in the Vibram group had a foot bone injury, compared to one of the 17 runners in the traditional running shoe group. Two of the 10 injured Vibram runners developed stress fractures. 

For those who want to run in Vibram FiveFingers, 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 or have any serious orthopaedic ailments: opt for something more supportive instead. Triathlon.competitor.com adds that runners with “biomechanically disadvantaged feet” need the kind of footwear that can support those issues. That means if you have poor forefoot stability, overpronate, or supinate, you’ll need proper footwear to set you straight. The best way to find out if you fall into this category is to visit a running clinic or stop by a specialty running store for an examination of your running style. — AFP/Relaxnews 

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