Less is More in Latest Footwear Trends

Barefoot running, toning shoes among the top five footwear trends

Presented by Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

The  hottest footwear trends are leaning toward minimalism, according to an expert presenting at the American College of Sports Medicine‘s 15th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & exposition.

Matt Werd, D.P.M., FACSM identified the five hottest trends in athletic footwear:

  • Barefoot running. Some runners believe running sans shoes forces a more natural running pattern. Research shows that barefoot runners do land more on the midfoot and forefoot versus shod runners; however, it is unclear which foot-landing pattern, if any, is best for avoiding injuries.
  • Minimalist athletic shoes. These extremely lightweight, low-profile shoes offer the natural running pattern of barefoot running but provide more coverage of the foot.
  • Toning shoes. Shoe manufacturers claim the unstable and highly curved outsole of these shoes activates more leg muscles than flat-soled shoes. The shoes’ instability may encourage more muscle expenditure, but they could also be harmful to those without adequate feeling in their feet, such as diabetics with neuropathy.
  • Compression socks. Encouraging better blood flow and limiting blood pooling in the calves, these tight-fitting socks help improve circulation and muscle oxygenation.
  • Recovery shoes. These shoes and sandals feature added support to comfort feet after a long workout. Easy to slip on and off, recovery shoes are all about helping your tired feet feel good.

Werd, who is past-president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, stressed that appropriate athletic footwear is key to injury prevention and enhanced performance. Trendy does not always equal safe when it comes to footwear. A quick transition from wearing traditional shoes to ones that are minimalist will likely increase the risk of injury.

“A push for more athletes to train barefoot or in minimalist shoes has created considerable excitement among shoe companies but also considerable caution among sports-medicine professionals,” said Werd. “Research has not yet proven which type of footwear or running gait is best at preventing injuries, so I discourage a rapid transition to minimalist footwear.”

Shoe fit and comfort are the most important considerations in footwear. Other variables to consider include foot type, biomechanics, past experiences and type of sport or activity.

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N, is a registered dietitian (www.DayByDayNutrition.com) who has been teaching healthy lifestyles strategies to consumers for over 35+ years.