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  • Army Study on Minimalist Running Shoes Finds No Reduction in Injury Risk

    A new study from the US Army says that when it comes to choosing between minimalist running shoes (MRS) and traditional running shoes (TRS), there are plenty of differences to consider, but injury risk probably shouldn't be 1 of them.

    Army researchers analyzed injury rates, fitness performance, and other demographic variables among 1,332 men in an Army brigade, 83% of whom wore TRS with the remaining 17% wearing MRS. Authors of the study aimed to find out whether one type of shoe decreases injury risk (a claim that has been made by fans of MRS), but they also found out more about the characteristics of MRS wearers—or at least male MRS wearers in the Army. The study was e-published ahead of print in the American Journal of Sports Medicine (abstract only available for free).

    When it comes to injury, after adjusting for demographic and other variables, researchers found that "even though returning to a more natural gait through the use of MRS has been suggested to reduce running-related injuries, the current study found no differences in injury incidence among soldiers who wore MRS and soldiers who wore TRS."

    According to the study, the identifiable risk factors had more to do with the soldiers themselves than what they wore. Soldiers who were older, had a BMI of 30 or more, were previously injured, performed poorly on a 2-mile run test, and who were from support battalions (as opposed to infantry, cavalry, artillery, or special troop battalions) were more likely to experience a running-related injury.

    Not surprisingly, the soldiers who wore MRS tended to be younger and "performed significantly better on all physical fitness tests," according to the article. Authors write that the link is consistent with runners' surveys that reveal a higher rate of MRS use among individuals who considered themselves "elite" runners, and were younger. Similarly, they write, "soldiers motivated to enhance their performance may exercise at higher intensities … and may be more likely to try MRS due to anticipated theoretical performance advantages."

    Authors don't discuss whether those advantages actually exist, but are clear that their findings don't support the idea that one type of shoe has an advantage over another when it comes to injury. "Individuals can wear the shoes of their choice without adversely affecting their injury risks," they write.

    Research-related stories featured in PT in Motion News are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.


    • Just looking at shoes is misleading as many MRS wearers are not forefoot or mid foot runners as recommended for wearing MRS. As a military PT, I have analyzed the running gate of several military runners wearing MRS and they think they use a mid to forefoot pattern, but when filmed and slowed down they are heal strikers. Part of what I believe why they would end up in therapy. Especially if you could Nike Free type of shoes as MRS.

      Posted by Ryan Smith on 3/15/2016 8:48 PM

    • Ryan, You may want to edit your post to look a bit more professional. Running gate? Heal?

      Posted by Spell Checker on 3/16/2016 9:36 PM

    • This research confirms the fact that many factors play into injury rates in runners and not just the type of shoes. As mentioned in Ryan Smith's comments, form plays a major role, with many runners erroneously believing their form to be different than it really is. Tissue resiliency to stresses related to running is the ultimate determining factor to injury rates. We as clinicians must determine where the breakdown has occurred and why (i.e. faulty form and/or exercise intensity/duration factors). Shoes are just one component of this puzzle. Nice to see this discussion continuing around good research.

      Posted by Brian Miller on 3/16/2016 9:54 PM

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