A recent study entitled Effect Of Increased Mechanical Stimuli On Foot Muscles Functional Capacity which was financially supported by Nike showed that various foot muscles were actually strengthened by minimalist footwear running. The researchers found that several key foot muscles were strengthened by a significant level over a control group that used conventional training shoes, thereby providing clinical evidence to the widely held belief in the barefoot running community that wearing less on our feet provides an advantage in muscle development.
Foot muscle strength increased by over 20%
The study covered both a number of male and female runners over a period of five months and the results are extremely encouraging for barefoot enthusiasts, with the most notable improvement occurring in the flexor strength of the joints between the metatarsal bones of the foot and the proximal bones of the toes. While the control group showed a strengthening which ranged from 228 before the study to 237 afterwards, or an improvement of just under 4%, the group using the minimalist shoe went from 232 to 279 which represents a jump of over 20%!
Supportive shoes weaken foot muscles
The support that a conventional athletic shoe provides to the foot proved to have the opposite effect. Strength not only did not improve, but actually lessened! The research has shown that when the foot is extensively supported key muscles weaken. Essentially, when these foot muscles are supported they are not being placed under the necessary loads to strengthen and tone them. The conclusion of the study that footwear technology impacts the mechanical loading and the biological response of the muscular structures of the foot should be welcomed by the barefoot community at large as one more scientific proof that we’re on the correct side of the conventional athletic shoe debate!
Brugemann G, , Potthast W, Braunstein B, et al. : Effect of increased mechanical stimuli on foot muscles functional capacity. In: ISB XXth Congress—ASB 29th Annual Meeting. Cleveland, OH: American Society of Biomechanics; 2005:553.