Workout Tips

Going Bare with Your Footwear

A new study says barefoot shoes can be dangerous. Lifters: don't you believe it.

Going Bare with Your Footwear
15% of the running shoe market belongs to barefoot-style shoes.

We’ve lauded the benefits of barefoot-style shoes many times in the pages of M&F. We love them especially for deadlifting and squatting, because they keep the lifter closer to the ground, directing all of his energy into the lift instead of allowing it to dissipate into the pillowy cushions of conventional running shoes. M&F contributor Martin Rooney (pictured above) swears by them for all in-gym activities. The barefoot-shoe craze, however, started with runners, and the shoes are marketed mainly for that purpose.

Barefoot-style shoes now make up 15% of the $6.5 billion running shoe market. But before you get a pair for some old-fashioned roadwork, consider a new study conducted by exercise scientists at Brigham Young University, showing that experienced runners who transitioned to barefoot shoes suffered greater increases in bone marrow edema, or swelling. The runners gradually replaced their regular mileage in conventional running shoes with barefoot-shoe mileage until they’d totally transitioned to using barefoot shoes, in Week 10. The study authors recommended a slower transition if you plan to run in barefoot shoes, and we agree.

For heavy lifts, though, we stick by our original recommendation, as the complications noted in the study came from the repeated high impact of running, not stationary lifts.