Monday, 3 October 2011

Toning Trainers and Barefeet Running

Last week Reebok were fined $25 million because of false claims about their “toning” trainers Then at the end of the week a small study was released claiming that more than half of the women studied showed no benefit from wearing barefoot running shoes So, I thought I’d shed some light on the situations and give you my thoughts about these two different types of products and whether they are worth your money.
“Toning” Trainers?
So far I’ve called them “toning” trainers but from here on out they shall be referred to as, “Rounded-Underneath’s-Bought-By-Idiots-Seeking-Health (or rubbish) trainers. Reebok seem to have muscled their way in to a market that has been about for a couple of years. These “rubbish” trainers have been around for a while, each with the same principle; by having a rounded, unstable sole the trainers are supposed to make your leg muscles work harder when you walk to keep you balanced. Reebok came in, put the fantastic body of Kelly Brook at the front of a big advertising campaign and have sold quite a few of these trainers. And I’m not surprised; the suggestion of a body like Kelly’s just by wearing a pair of trainers is an attractive offer for most women.
The Problem
Reebok have been fined because their claims of your muscles working harder have been false. However, even if their claims were true, I would still advise people to take steer clear of these “rubbish” trainers. The selling point of them is an age-old method of selling anything in the health and fitness sector – do less and get better results.
But let’s think about it, even if these trainers make your muscles work harder, when would you wear them, to work with your office wear? I don’t think your boss would be impressed with your new casual look? Would you wear them for all of your outside of work activities, when all your short journeys are taken by car? The point is most people would only wear these trainers at one specific time, their dedicated exercise time.
Swap exercise for walking?
So, you’ve started wearing the trainers and you’re going for some walks. Great, I’m not going to say anything bad about someone willing to try to exercise and improve the health and fitness. I will say though that it is naive to think that, because you’re wearing your brand-spanking-new-give-me-a-body-like-Kelly-Brook trainers, all you have to do is walk and you will give your muscles a workout.

"Wow, if I get some of these trainers, I could look like that?" Um, no!

Bottom line
You will not get a Kelly Brook bum (no pun on the subheading intended) by wearing these rubbish trainers. You will by exercising.
Barefoot shoes
In the running community barefoot running is growing in popularity. The theory goes that we are biologically wired to run barefooted. In however many 1000s years BC, man hunted and man’s advantage over beast was that man could run and run and run and run get the picture. Usain Bolt can run 100m in around 9.5 seconds. In the animal kingdom this is embarrassingly average.  Patrick Makau  ran the Berlin marathon in 2 hours 3 minutes and 38 seconds. Not many animals could match that. Humans were made to run and we have ran barefooted for thousands of years.
Man no like soft, cushioned foot thing
I've always thought my toes would be happier if they were
seperated and hugged, individually by my running shoes
Along came the commercial world and they said, when running cushion your feet, our trainers will save your joints. Trainers were built up and today you can buy all manner of shoe to make it feel like you’re running on pillows. The fad now though is switching back to minimalist. The reason is that this way your joints will be spared of huge forces and pressure. This happens as you switch from striking the ground with your heel, as you do in cushioned trainers, to striking the ground with the ball of your foot as you run.
Do they work?
The study that I linked to at the beginning looked only at the Vibram FiveFingers but most of these shoes follow the same principle; they are light and thin, offer little cushion and support and are basically there to stop you cutting your feet on the ground. In my opinion there are too many positive things coming out about these shoes for me to think they aren’t worth the hype. I haven’t tried them myself but I am very, very tempted to.
 In the study the half that continued to heel strike first when wearing the FiveFingers were doubling the impact compared to traditional trainers. But, those who switched to a forefront strike reduced the impact compared to traditional trainers.
One of the reasons why half of the women saw no benefit has been said to be that they made no effort to modify their form. A conscious effort may be needed to change your form and adjust to the minimalist shoe. It was suggested that the transition from traditional to minimalist shoe was slow and progressive to ensure that the correct form and technique developed.
So, let’s conclude. Reeboks “rubbish” trainers probably (maybe even definitely) won’t give you a bum like Kelly Brook. Minimalist shoes might not help you reduce the impact when running straight away but will do if you take the transition to these shoes slowly and make a conscious effort to change your form.
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