Less Shoe, More Muscle

Running in minimalist shoes can increase and strengthen leg and foot muscle volume, according to a new study.

AsianScientist (Oct. 7, 2016) – In a study published in Clinical Biomechanics, researchers have shown that running in minimalist shoes can increase leg and foot muscle volume, indicating the shoes’ potential for use in rehabilitation programs.

Dr. Roy Cheung, assistant professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and his research team recruited 38 runners, with a mean age of 35, from local running clubs. The participants, comprising 21 males and 17 females, have been running for six years on average with their traditional running shoes (TRS), footwear of heel-to-toe drop over 5 mm, with additional cushioning pads and artificial arch support.

Among the 38 participants, 20 runners were selected randomly as part of the experimental group underwent a six-month training program. At the beginning, each participant was given a pair of minimalist running shoes (MRS) and a self-monitoring program including transition exercise regimes, such as calf strengthening exercises and balance training.

The MRS used in this study featured an open-topped upper made of stretchy fabric, five separate toe compartments, zero heel-to-toe drop, no midsole cushioning or arch support, and a uniform 3-mm outer sole. The other 18 runners in the control group received the same training program, but ran with their own TRS.

All the participants were invited to undergo magnetic resonance imaging scanning for measuring their right leg and foot muscles before and after the six-month intervention. The experimental group exhibited significantly greater leg and foot volume. Interestingly, the study also found a positive correlation between participants’ MRS compliance and the changes in leg muscle volume. The more compliant participants are in wearing MRS, the higher the leg muscle volume growth.

The research team explained that MRS provides minimal cushioning and no mechanical support to the foot arches and the foot muscles, which function as important foot arch stabilizers. Therefore, the transition to MRS strengthened the muscular components of the foot core system.

The article can be found at: Chen et al. (2016) Effects of Training in Minimalist Shoes on the Intrinsic and Extrinsic Foot Muscle Volume.


Source: Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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