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Session 16: Minimalist Shoes (SS)    3:40PM - 5:10PM
Chair: Irene I Davis, PhD, PT   Director of the Spaulding National Running Center and Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School
Co-moderator: Isabel Sacco, PhD Physical Therapy at the University of Sao Paulo

Our foot, with its 26 bones, 33 articulations, and 4 layers of arch muscles is well-adapted to both walk and run without the aid of footwear.  The first forms of footwear were designed simply to protect the sole of the foot from injury. The running shoes of just 50 years ago were generally constructed with a soft upper and a sole and would be considered minimal shoes by today’s standards. Through the following years, running shoes have become increasingly more supportive and cushioned. There was then a swing towards more minimal running shoes such as the Nike Frees and the Vibram Five Finger shoes.  Studies have indicated softer landings, and greater muscle strength when using shoes without cushioning and support.  However, reports of transition injuries began to appear which has encouraged the proliferation of safe transitioning programs.


Walking shoes have also become progressively more cushioned and supportive over the years.  Elderly, and those with pathological conditions such as knee OA, are often recommended to wear cushioned and supportive footwear.  However recent studies by a number of groups have suggested that these individuals actually exhibit improved mechanics, as well as improved pain and function with minimal footwear….suggesting less may be more.


In this symposium, we will examine the evidence related to how minimal footwear influences mechanics, and benefits the musculoskeletal system in a varied population, suggesting this footwear may have a broad application. In addition, we will discuss safe transition, clinical applications, identify current barriers, and future areas for research.

10 min    Irene S Davis, PhD, PT  Symposium introduction


15 min    Irene S Davis, PhD, PT  Biomechanical comparison of minimal shoes to conventional shoes


15 min    Sarah T Ridge, PhD (Brigham Young University)   Effect of minimal footwear & foot strengthening on the MSK system of the foot


15 min    Isabel CN Sacco, PhD (Physical Therapy at the University of Sao Paulo)  Can minimal shoes improve knee osteoarthritis?


15 min    Jacob Hofer, MD (Esopus Medical)  How minimalist shoes have transformed one doctor’s practice


20 min    Irene S Davis, PhD, PT Interactive exchange

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