Shoes simulate barefoot running to reduce injuries

Jessica Kantor | Staff Writer

A shoe that simulates barefoot running is retraining Mason High School athletes’ feet and leg muscles to perform as they naturally would without shoes.Sophmore Ryan Mumma, who runs track and cross country, said that the shoe, called the Vibram Five-Finger, has taught his feet to run so that injuries, such as strained muscles, are prevented. The shoes, he said, also allow him to run more comfortably.

According to VibramFiveFingers.com, the shoes provide “optimum balance, increased stability, less impact and greater propulsion.” The impact reduction (less pressure when the foot lands) allows the runner to perform better and stops injuries to the feet and legs.

After multiple injuries, Mumma said he wanted to find a permanent solution. He found the shoes in a book he read while trying to find a solution to his repeated injury.

“I read about the shoe in a book called Born to Run,” Mumma said. “It is all about a tribe and how they do not have any [running-related] problems despite running [constantly].”

The shoes imitate barefoot running, which, as a style of running, has been shown to reduce running-related injuries. Mumma said that he chose to purchase and wear the shoes based on the company’s promise that they would improve his form during running. He also said that the shoes have also allowed him to run more consistently without pain or injury.

“I use the shoes for training and any kind of running [outside of track and cross country meets],” Mumma said. “I researched barefoot running because I had severe knee and hip pains. All research says that going down to a basic running stance, as in barefoot running, gets rid of hip and knee problems and [helps you] become a healthier runner.”

The Born to Run tribe’s ability to run without injury is attributed to barefoot running. According to VibramFiveFingers.com, the shoes, designed to simulate barefoot running, “train the foot to naturally land on the forefoot, which is less damaging than landing on the heel of the foot.” Mumma said that he had been acquiring injuries from running incorrectly — landing on the wrong part of his foot. The human foot, when walking or running, is made to use the ball of the foot to push off from the ground, according to the website.

“The shoe [trains you to] stop landing on your heel and instead land on the balls of your feet or the arch, because it cushions you more, and that’s what your foot is built for,” Mumma said. “It also builds your lower calves, which helps with joint problems. [The shoes] feel the exact same as running barefoot, except [with] a bit more comfort.”

Mumma said that the company’s promises of more comfort and a proper running stance have held true and that he has seen immense improvement in his running form and muscle.

“I don’t have any injuries anymore,” Mumma said. “I have more calf muscle because I land on the balls of my feet, so I have to use my calves more. I have gotten better [at running], because [I have the ability] to run more and more comfortab[ly].”

Despite all of its benefits, Mumma said that MHS track coaches have not yet taken a stance on their runners wearing the shoe.

“My coach is kind of indifferent about it,” Mumma said. “He says to wear more high-tech shoes with cushioning; he wants us to stay healthy. If you run barefoot and do not get injuries, he is fine with it. He says [to] go with what your body is used to.”