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.