Study: Vibrams Carry Bone Injury Risk

Ease your way into barefoot running

Ryan O'Hanlon

Want to start barefoot running? If so, according to a forthcoming study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, you probably want to ease your way into it.

Over 10 weeks, a group of researchers in Utah monitored 19 runners who transitioned to doing some training in Vibram FiveFingers, along with 17 others who continued to run in traditional shoes. The results: 10 of the Vibram users showed signs of foot-bone injury after the 10 weeks, compared to only one of the 17 conventional-shoe users.

The FiveFingers group followed a conservative transition plan based on one offered at the time of the study (early 2011) on Vibram’s website. In the first week, they did one short run (1-2 miles) in Vibrams. During the next two weeks, they added another short run in Vibrams each week; that is, by the third week they were to do three runs of at least 1 mile in Vibrams. After the third week, they were told to increase the amount they ran in Vibrams as felt comfortable, with the goal of replacing one short run a week in conventional shoes for a short run in Vibrams.

As Scott Douglas writes at Runner’s World: “This study supports the idea that, while running in barely there shoes can strengthen lower leg and feet muscles, the lack of cushioning can increase risk of bone injury.”