Before the super shoe debate took over our collective conversation, there was the minimalist vs. conventional shoe debate. While that argument has cooled off in recent years, there are still those who swear by their barely-there footwear and those who are adamantly against it, citing an increased risk for injuries. Recently, researchers took another look at the argument to determine exactly how minimalist shoes affect runners, and the results are (as you may have guessed) still up for debate.
The study, published in the journal Applied Sciences, recruited 21 experienced minimalist shoe runners to run for 30 minutes at 80 per cent of their max aerobic speed in either minimalist or conventional footwear. This is different from many other studies, which tend to focus on just one step on a force plate. As they ran, the researchers measured participants’ mean pressure, peak pressure, contact time, centre of pressure velocity, relative force and contact area.
The results indicated that when running in minimalist shoes, the athletes had shorter contact times but higher peak forces on their feet. These results were the most significant for the runners who landed on their forefeet, compared to those who had a midfoot or rearfoot-striking pattern.
The researchers concluded that considering this data, wearing minimalist shoes increases your risk for foot injuries. Since the research was published, however, others in the industry have weighed in, and are less convinced. One of these commentators is Canadian Max Paquette, associate professor in sport science & biomechanics at the University of Michigan. In his opinion, these differences between minimalist and conventional shoes likely won’t amount to an increased injury risk.
In runners w/ minimal shoe experience, min shoes (vs neutral) at end of 30min run at 80% of max speed led to:
⬆️greater peak plantar pressure
⬇️contact time & contact area
Strike pattern is confounder.
I doubt these have injury implications.
— Max Paquette (@BiomechMax) January 12, 2022
So should you wear minimalist shoes? The choice is up to you. Injuries, as we know, are often caused by a multitude of factors, with your footwear only one potential contributor. If you are considering making the switch, make sure you ease yourself into them gradually by alternating them with another less-minimal pair to avoid injuries, and pay attention to your body. Everyone is different, and a shoe that works for your running may not be what works for you.