Vibram settlement and barefoot running studies

I have recently seen many people on Facebook posting articles related to the Vibram company (famous for the dignity-destroying five-finger shoes) paying a settlement for false advertising. While I agree that Vibram probably initially overstated the benefits of their product, many of the Facebook posts include statements that seem to state that barefoot/minimalist running is bad for you. Solely based on the settlement by the company. Others posts occasionally cite a recent report (Ridge and colleagues report, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439417) that shows there are changes during the transition in running from normal shoes to barefoot shoes (namely foot bone marrow edema). However, this does not prove that barefoot running is bad, only that edema can correlate with transitioning to minimalist running. The study showed that intense edema occurred in 3 out of 19 minimalist runners (the control had 0 out of 17), but it should be emphasized that the study participants were running 15-30 miles a week and only occasionally in the vibram shoes. Is this a normal weekly mileage for most american runners? I doubt it. The study also found that there were no soft-tissue changes in this same transition phase. While the study included a good control group, there were some confounders pointed out by the authors, including differences in the amount of running between the groups in the final weeks. The study also notes that the participants with the highest edema scores felt PAIN associated with this injury. My humble recommendation to anyone running, in vibrams or otherwise, is to never run through pain because it probably indicates some mild injury. Lastly, the conclusion of the study is that transitioning to minimalist running should be done slowly. THAT’S IT. Not that vibram barefoot shoes cause injury, just that the transition period may increase risk of edema. I would hypothesize that transitions in any running behavior are correlated with similar changes (Ex. transitioning from no running to some running). This study was clearly overhyped and exaggerated in the media, and amongst people hating on vibrams. As a scientist that interprets data for myself… I’m gonna keep running in my vibram shoes (for my once-a-week run). Especially given the awesome data from Dr. Daniel Lieberman that looks at impact in shoes versus barefoot running (http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu).

One thought on “Vibram settlement and barefoot running studies

  1. Pingback: HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAUSESCIENCE! #1yearagotoday | CauseScience

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