No health benefit to 'barefoot' running shoes

  • Breaking
  • 12/05/2014

New Zealand joggers won't get a payout from an American lawsuit over claims shoes that mimic running barefoot give health benefits.

The company that sells the shoes say they never made such claims here.

But podiatrists say most runners need far more foot support than the shoes provide.

Vibram's FiveFingers shoes burst onto the lucrative fitness scene eight years ago with claims they would strengthen muscles, improve health, range of motion, posture and even reduce back pain and injury.

Time magazine went so far as naming them among 2007's best health inventions.

"We're trying to let the foot move and relax and be as comfortable as possible," said Vibram's New Zealand rep, Dylan Connor, four years ago.

But crucially he never went as far as his American counterparts who have just settled a $4.3 million lawsuit over those claims.

"It's generally more to do with just the cost of two years of legal fees in America is quite substantial," says Mr Connor.

But here, where running barefoot is a rite of passage, Vibram's back-to-nature story is a powerful one tinged with nostalgia.

"Just the New Zealand culture of being barefoot while young and running around at school with no shoes on and doing cross-country events with no shoes on, it's just normal," says Mr Connor. "It's how we all grew up. It's how we all did things."

Many who have bought minimalist shoes have trouble letting go, as podiatrist Cam Palmer has found when its disciples come in with problems.

"They tend to love it," says Mr Palmer. "They do tend to fight my advice sometimes. But realistically if you're going to run on road, you need that extra protection of a traditional running shoe. But it's a battle for me at times."

He says the minimalist shoe is well-marketed, but the big claims are based on anecdotes and the research is unscientific.

"We know that minimalist footwear does increase your risk of injury around the forefoot. It loads up the calf muscles and Achilles complex more. So we are seeing those injuries in particular coming through."

Some New Zealand distance athletes have had great success running in minimalist shoes, but podiatrists say they have already got great technique. Weekend warriors who want to adapt should get a shoe with superior cushioning.  

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source: newshub archive


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