By Kathleen Doheny
TUESDAY, March 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- It's the latest thing among avid runners: "minimalist" shoes that approach the way humans first ran -- barefoot.
But a new study suggests that runners over the age of 30 who transition from traditional running shoes to minimalist shoes should do so cautiously to avoid injury.
They ''probably need to do it much more slowly, over a longer time period," said study lead author Dr. Scott Mullen, a researcher at the University of Kansas Hospital Sports Medicine and Performance Center in Kansas City.
He was slated to present the findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Las Vegas.
As Mullen explained, with traditional running shoes the heel strikes the ground first. But the focus in the lighter minimalist shoe is to have the forefoot strike first.
In a conventional running shoe, your heel is higher than your forefoot. But a minimalist shoe is flatter, with less drop from the heel to toe.
Complicating things is the fact that the human foot appears to adapt to shoe changes differently, depending on a person's age. For example, Mullen cited a recent study that found that teens appear to adapt easily to minimalist shoes -- changing quickly from a heel-strike to a forefoot-strike pattern when transitioning to the barefoot-like shoes.
His team switched the focus to older runners. Mullen's group tested 26 runners -- all over 30 with at least 10 years of running experience -- and found they were not as adept at transitioning to the new forefoot strike pattern favored by the minimalist shoe.
Mullen's team tested the older runners on the treadmill at various speeds, both in their conventional running shoes and barefoot.
"They ran barefoot because the minimalist shoes are an attempt to mimic barefoot running in a more protected fashion," Mullen explained.
Runners were tested at running speeds of 6, 7 and 8 miles per hour for women and 7, 8 and 9 mph for men. As they ran, a camera captured their feet's strike pattern.
source : Should Older Runners Embrace the 'Barefoot' Craze?