Barefoot Running Is Booming But Is It Safe?

MIAMI (CBS4) — Sales of so-called barefoot running shoes have taken off. In fact, a number of top shoe manufacturers like Nike and New Balance are coming out with their own versions but a local physical therapist warns these shoes aren’t for everyone.

Bruce Wilk is a physical therapist and owner of the Runner’s High store in Kendall.

“Running injuries are common. Running injuries treated properly should not be disabling,” said Wilk. But Wilk says he’s seeing a growing number of injuries resulting from barefoot running shoes.

“Over time the arches will collapse without support running on a flat hard surface like asphalt,” according to Wilk.

Wilk says the shoes lack the stability and support of a typical training shoe.

“There’s materials in the forefoot and in the hind foot to cushion and stabilize and in the mid-foot largely to stabilize to protect the arches and boney structures of the foot,” said Wilk.

Barefoot running took off when the book “Born To Run” became a bestseller in 2009. One of the first shoes marketed as a barefoot running shoe is Vibram’s Five Fingers.

Miami resident Frank Alexander, who has been a trail runner for 35 years, said he was disappointed when he tried the five finger shoes.

“You have to be careful because if something gets lodged in between your toes, because your toes are exposed in these shoes they’re not covered like a regular shoe,” said Alexander. He also said they are a little slippery in the rain.

Alexander said he didn’t get hurt wearing five fingers but there are plenty of published reports on the internet from others who claim they did get hurt by injuries such as stress fractures and crippling knee pain.

Even former MSNBC commentator Keith Olberman talked about being injured wearing Five Fingers on Late Night With David Letterman in May.

Vibram, the company that makes Five Fingers, does include a disclaimer on its website. It reads, “Vibram recommends you consult your physician or a medical professional to see if natural running and Five Fingers is right for you.”


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