Listen To Your Body, Not Headlines

Listen To Your Body, Not Headlines
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The verdict is (almost literally) in: Vibrams, the barefoot running shoe company, has no scientific grounds to claim that barefoot running results in health benefits used to originally market the brand. But that shouldn’t change the way you run.

Image by Poi Photography

The company claimed a myriad of benefits for minimalist/barefoot-style running, including strengthened lower leg muscles, improved posture, and even reduced lower back pain. But according to the American Podiatric Medical Association, the evidence isn’t there to support it. As a result, news outlets have been quick to call the firm out on their moral wrongdoings, and rightfully so.

That said, with situations like this, it’s easy to demonise barefoot running by conflating the company’s bad reputation with minimalist footwear. But what often gets overlooked is that the science (or lack thereof) isn’t telling you that you should be running one way, or you shouldn’t wear these shoes. It’s just that there isn’t enough information to say either way.

There isn’t a right or wrong when it comes to running, just as there is rarely a right or wrong when it comes to general fitness. Your individual body mechanics and gait means that you may be suited to minimalist shoes, or perhaps you feel better with more support, in the same way that you might thrive off intermittent fasting or high intensity workouts while your gym buddy doesn’t. In the end, you’re doing it to achieve results for yourself, not anyone else.

So don’t rely so heavily on what external sources say, and use your own experiences to make up your mind. As our resident running expert Beth Skwarecki wisely put it: “All the science we have doesn’t beat the advice of do whatever works for you.” Achieving results is key.


  • “has no scientific grounds to claim that barefoot running results in the health benefits” and you look like a complete dork 🙂

    • But it’s more PALEO and therefore better for you.

      Also something something crossfit functional strength buzzword.

  • Get with the program Vibram. Pay for your own independent trials and release the results. Have a chat with Swisse.

  • They certainly do look unusual, but I’ve been wearing them for years. I don’t run in them (or anything else) but I gave them a try after years of spending a fortune on custom orthotic shoe inserts. My knee/hip/back problems have more or less disappeared (as has any reputation for looking normal).

  • I have three pairs – including a more rugged soled pair for hill running.

    The issue really was just with stupid people, who thought buying these shoes would automatically fix their problems, and when they didn’t, they thought they could win money in a class action against Vibram if they professed their ignorance loudly enough.

    Vibram themselves have always included a guide to help you transition to bare foot running – you can’t run heel first in these shoes without damaging yourself, and it takes a few weeks to train yourself to run on your toes.

    After a couple of years running in Vibrams with no injury I can now spread my toes out widely like I was spreading my fingers – my feet are stronger and more dextrous – if I ever lose my hands in an unfortunate accident, I should be able to start typing with my toes!

    Once you transition, the very idea of running heel first seems unnatural…
    Because it is.

    • No, the issue wasn’t with ‘stupid people’. It was with a company making bullshit health claims it couldn’t back up.

      To which LH seems to respond with ‘but anecdotal evidence!’, which is normally something they rail against.

  • Anti-vaxers and climate change deniers make stupid claims which are not backed up by science and the reaction is to burn them at the stake.

    Company which makes dumb looking shoes makes wild claims about their product which are not backed up by science and the reaction is not the same?

    Smacks of hypocrisy.

  • another casual wearer here.
    i bought them mainly to strengthen my muscles below the knee. and i can definitely say they have.
    its true, they give you a guide on how to get used to wearing them after coming from conventional shoes. and it literally starts with you walking around barefoot and stretching your toes and ligaments with your hands. then progresses to 10 or 20 minute gentle walks and they gradually gets more and more intense from there.

    i used to only be able to walk for about 20 minutes before my feet and lower leg muscles were killing me.
    but now, i can wear them all day, im much stronger in those muscles, my balance is a lot better and i find them really comfortable to wear about.

    i get paid out about them by lots of people, but f*&k em, they work for me and i like them.

    but i find it incredibly ignorant of people to throw out abuse about something they havnt tried for them selves.

  • there is rarely a right or wrong when it comes to general fitness

    Um, what? There are definitely wrong ways to get fit! Lifting too much. Crash dieting. Running with shin splints. Sitting on the couch all day. There are loads of “wrong ways”.

    This article is just saying “anecdotal evidence is better than scientific evidence. Don’t listen to science”.

    Did Dick Talens pay a lot for a pair of Vibrams and needs to find a way to publicly justify his scientifically baseless love for them? That’s my hunch.

    • Yes the conclusion of this article is very disturbing and I say that as someone who often champions ‘do what works for you’.

      When I say ‘do what works for you’ I mean don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

      I don’t mean ‘do something that is incorrect and possibly dangerous just because you ‘perceive’ it to be good’.

      You have to look at things within the framework of your own motivations, subjective desires, and cost benefit analysis, but that doesn’t mean you wilfully ignore the evidence. You add that evidence to your decision matrix!

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