Does Running in those Strange Foot Glove Thingies Help?
You’ve probably seen people wearing those strange foot glove things with the rubber covered toes. Living in Boulder Colorado, we get these sports trends pretty early, so I’ve been staring at them for about 5 years it seems. At first, I immediately got the premise, barefoot is better, so why not take a minimalist approach to footwear? In fact, I felt a little inferior for sporting my huge by comparison running or hiking shoes. Was I some sort of industrial age idiot for not wanting to immediately buy a pair? Well a group from North Carolina must have had the same basic feelings of inferiority, so they decided to study the things. They tested the “minimalistic footwear” (don’t you love how common things are described by scientists in research studies?) by allowing 20 runners to train in the strange glove thingies for two weeks. They measured various aspects of their gait like hip, knee, and ankle movements when the foot hit the ground. They also measured the gait characteristics (how they ran) and things like how hard their foot hit the ground. The authors concluded: “The proportion of runners with a RFS pattern did not decrease after two weeks (P = .25). Those runners who chose a RFS pattern in minimalistic shoes experienced a vertical loading rate that was 3 times greater than those who chose to run with a non-RFS pattern.” What is RFS? This means Rear Foot Strike or the fact that the runner’s heel strikes the ground first. This is an issue, as the makers of the “minimalistic footwear” and advocates for these things claim that they force you to have a more natural running style (see above). This wasn’t observed in this study, but what was observed was a 300% increase in forces on the foot and leg. The upshot? The next time I see someone on the Pearl Street Mall walking around in these foot glove thingies I’ll just have one of those knowing smiles and be thankful for my huge gun boat sneakers!