Are minimalist shoes effective for strengthening foot muscles in runners?
As the main point of contact with the ground, the foot plays a vital role in how humans move.
The complex structure of the foot includes 26 bones, more than 20 muscles, many ligaments and various types of soft tissue. These features allow the foot to provide rigid support or flexibility, depending on the situation. Weakness of the basic foot muscles (those small muscles located solely within the foot that do not cross the ankle joint) has been associated with a variety of foot injuries. Strengthening these muscles may help prevent injuries.
In this research, the investigators measured the effects of walking in minimalist footwear or performing specific foot strengthening exercises on the size and strength of some of these basic foot muscles. A total of 57 runners participated over a period of eight weeks in one of these randomly assigned conditions: minimalist shoe walking, foot muscle strengthening or a control situation. Serial measurements of foot muscle strength and size were made during the study. The research showed that walking in minimalist shoes results in strength gains and muscle size increases; the same was found in the group that performed the foot exercises. While minimalist shoes have mostly been associated with running, the general public and/or people who suffer from a variety of painful foot conditions may benefit from walking in minimalist shoes.
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