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    Minimalist Shoes, The Good - The Bad and of course the Ugly

    Minimalist shoes are the rage now, does anyone remember the MBT’s?  By all the rage, means we are now seeing these shoes more and more. Mostly worn in gyms, and for running, they are supposed to mimic barefoot movement. Which in turn should make our gait more biomechanical, therefore leading to less compensation while reducing the stress on joints. Studies did show improvement in gait, loading and unloading while running, and an overall improvement in balance. The GOOD!

    All the studies mentioned above were on runners. Runners are a breed apart, that is if they make it past the overuse injury stage (I unfortunately did not). Let’s just say long distance runners do not have the same biomechanics considerations the rest of the population does. People that have trouble loading and unloading their body weight at the foot or ankle while walking will never be runners, they will develop issues the minute they try to start running. Oh, it may take some time, but it will happen. The BAD!

    What happens when the general population gets a hold of an idea that initially shows benefits, well, we tend to go overboard with it. We jump in head first, because if one hour of something is good, then of course walking around in these shoes all day must be even better. In fact we should wear them all the time, right?  Well, maybe, depends on how your feet actually work. If you don’t have good feet and ankles, resulting in poor gait pattern, the shoes will not fix it. If you compensate in your gait, i.e. you are a heel striker, you are still going to be a heel striker, only now you don’t have any cushion to support your heel. Resulting in issues you would not experience in a normal running shoe. The UGLY! (and they do look ugly).

    Now the common sense part, it does not mean you should never wear these shoes. It means that get your gait evaluated by a professional before trying them. And by a professional I mean a Physical Therapist or Orthopedic Surgeon (hopefully one specializing in running), a shoes salesman or even a Personal Trainer does not possess the appropriate education to encompass what needs to be assessed (or at least very few, and then you are paying PT prices). Then after you have been evaluated, work into these shoes slowly, anytime you change the proprioceptive feedback, it takes your body time to adjust, but at least now you are building a good base.  Meanwhile, you can still wear your normal running shoes, and continue to work out, because we never want to stop that.

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