Active Life Podiatry have been authorised stockists for the much discussed and often maligned Vibram 5 Fingers (VFF). As stockist, therapist and occasional wearer/s of the minimal ‘shoe’ the following is a summary of what we have learned about VFF.
These shoes were made to encourage a more grounded feel and could be used instead of regular shoes to mimic barefoot running. Many authors and “experts” claim this style of running is more efficient and less likely to cause injury. However, it should b mentioned that in 2012 the makers Vibram US had to settle a lawsuit for claiming that Vibram US deceived consumers by advertising that VVF could reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles, without any scientific evidence.
These 2 points are the focus of our opinions.
- In 2007 Christopher McDougall published Born to Run, which has since galvanised a huge ongoing debate about running form and technique. Many shoe companies jumped on the bandwagon and started selling minimalist footwear. However, the sales of minimalist shoes including VFF has been in a steady decline since around 2012. This trend is something we have seen at ALP. Study after study has found that wearing orthodox running shoes for running is far safer, more economical and biomechanically better for the feet. This, again is something we would agree with although running form is not just about the feet; many experts have claimed that running barefoot will lead mainly to increased injury of the feet due to the landing position being under the forefoot. Running in very minimal types of shoe may lead to toe trauma, metatarsal fractures and increased strain through the calf and Achilles tendons. These injuries may be the result of runners being too impatient – wearing minimalist shoes too much too soon and not taking the time to prepare themselves for the change in mechanics that occurs in taking the initial contact from the heel to the front of the foot. This preparation takes time and must include strength and conditioning and adjustment to both front and trail leg positioning in running. In our opinion many runners would benefit from some of the aspects in technique that occur in barefoot running. However, as a rule we would never advise running in very minimalist shoes. Orthodox running shoes are recommended.
- To date one study has been done to test whether VFF increase foot muscle strength. This study has been flawed by poor methodology and interpretation of results. Unfortunately this does not mean VFF do or do not improve foot muscle strength. In our experience for neutral/rectus foot types, wearing VFF encourages more toe dexterity, and may help to straighten crooked toes.
Our overall advice for the use of VVF is to wear them indoors for gentle exercise for approximately 1-2 hours each day, but never for running or other high impact sport. Although some foot types, including very wide feet and unusual toe configurations do not work at all and people with such feet should not use VVF. Generally our advice is that when in doubt do not use VVF.