A team from National University of Health Sciences conducted important research on a new trend-setting style of footwear: the Vibram™ five-toed shoe. Such shoes have become popular as part of a minimalist footwear revolution, and from a growing interest in barefoot running.
The study, titled “Effect of five-toed hyper mobile shoe on balance and functional deficits: A case series”(Dobson, Grant M. DC; Solecki, Thomas J. DC DACBSP DACRB; Boazzo, Jenna M. DC MS ND; Wiles, Christina BS IOE),was recently adapted to a poster presentation that has been accepted by the Federation Internationale De Chiropratique Du Sport (FICS) for its symposium in South Africa this April. The presentation will be given by Dr. Grant Dobson who graduated with his doctor of chiropractic degree from NUHS in 2011. Dobson began the research project while still a student at NUHS, along with faculty members Dr. Thomas Solecki and Dr. Jenna Boazzo.
For its project, the team recruited 16 participants of all ages and backgrounds from the ranks of staff, faculty and students of National University. Selected volunteers had no musculoskeletal complaints or balance problems for at least six months prior to the study.
The participants wore Vibram Fivefinger KSO™shoes for at least one hour, but not more than two hours, each day over a period of eight weeks. They could do whatever they wanted in the shoes, whether it be walking, running, or simply going to the grocery store. On campus, one might see a middle-aged secretary sporting Vibram shoes while walking between offices, or a doctor wearing the shoes on his clinic rounds.
The goal of the project was to see if wearing the shoes could improve balance and stability by strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and increasing proprioception (the sense of one’s own body, motion and limbs – a key factor in balance). The volunteers took no other measures to increase their balance or stability other than wearing the shoes, and were given several balance tests and a questionnaire before and after the testing period.
The study found an increase in balance among test subjects over an 8-12 week period. Specifically, participants were able to stay balanced through a series of maneuvers for an average of 8.78 seconds longer than they were able to prior to the start of the study. An unintended result was that some subjects who had used the shoes for running experienced less knee pain than they experienced when running in other shoes.
The research was funded and sponsored by NUHS. In addition, the Vibram company donated a free pair of shoes for each participant to help facilitate the research. “This type of research is very pertinent to chiropractic medicine,” says Dr. Greg Cramer, dean of research at NUHS. “It’s also another great example of students getting involved in research and actually carrying that research forward to presentation and or publications geared to our professions.”