Whether working at the bench or on the floor, clinical laboratorians tend to be on their feet a lot. Recently, there’s been a fad going around supporting minimalist sneakers -- you’ve probably seen a pair. They’re the ones that have places for your toes even though they’re a shoe -- like a glorified glove, only for your foot -- but are they actually better for you? A story from the New York Times details the pros and cons.
According to the article, a radiologist from Oren, Utah, Douglas Brown, MD, approached Sarah Ridge, PhD, professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University, after noticing more and more local runners sporting the unique-looking Vibram Five-Fingers barefoot-style toe shoes as well as heel and toe problems. Ridge then conducted a survey regarding impact injuries on “36 adult, experienced runners, male and female, who, until then, had run between 15 and 30 miles a week.” The results of which could hold tremendous influence over the debate on barefoot running.
Ridge divided the runners into two groups at random and instructed half to continue as they were, while the other half were given a pair of minimalist sneakers to work into their regimen. The “barefoot” group were instructed to wear the sneakers for one mile in their first week, two during their second, three during the third week and, after that, as much as they chose. After 10 weeks, each was given an MRI exam, and while none of the participants showed any tissue damage, “more than half of the runners wearing the minimalist shoes now showed early signs of bone injuries.” Essentially, the physical impact of barefoot running was taking its toll.
Personally, I have been a consistent runner since I was 15 and, after a knee surgery, decided to take up minimalist running to ease the pressure on my joints. I experienced no problems, while some of the runners in Ridge’s study sustained bone injuries as bad as stress fractures. The article went on to note that Ridge is now analyzing additional information from the study, such as mileage, form and weight, to examine whether or not there are runners who shouldn’t make the transition based on “their biomechanics or other factors.”
While they aren’t great for the laboratory, maybe someone at your facility has been sporting a funny pair of sneakers at the end of the day to give their feet a rest after work. Some say they are the most comfortable thing you could wear, while others clearly disagree -- so, take the time and ask them what they think. It’s bound to be an interesting conversation, and with MLPW approaching, it will give you a chance to get to know your co-workers better.