Purported to mimic the benefits of barefoot walking, minimalist footwear (MF) is becoming popular for daily use among the general public. Though evidence suggests that MF may have a positive effect on foot health, further investigation is required to determine the mechanisms which contribute to these observed effects. PURPOSE: The purpose of the study was to measure differences in medial longitudinal arch characteristics between Habitual users of Minimalist shoes (HM) and Habitual users of Cushioned shoes (HC). This information may provide insight regarding the causes of MF benefits. METHODS: Arch height data was collected from twelve healthy HC (9m, 3f, 22.4±2.4y, 70.5±9.0kg) and twelve healthy HM (9m, 3f, 24.7±4.2y, 71.4±8.3kg) using an Arch Height Index (AHI) Measurement System (JAKTOOL LLC.) HM subjects used MF as their primary walking footwear for a minimum of 6 months. AHI was measured on the right foot, in both the sitting and standing positions. AHI, Arch Drop (AD; sitting dorsum height – standing dorsum height) and Arch Flexibility (AF; AD/body mass*.4) were calculated from the data. Subjects were then categorized based on AF: stiff (AFRESULTS: HM have a significantly larger AD than the HC (HM: .49±.10 cm; HC: .37±.13 cm; p=.02). However, there was no significant difference in AF (HM: 16.5±4.0; HC: 13.4±5.0; p=.10), standing AHI (HM: .33±.01; HC: .34±.02; p=.75), or sitting AHI (HM: .39±.07; HC: .36±.02; p=.17). Categories of AF included the following numbers of participants: stiff = 6HC, 1 HM; normal = 3 HC, 2 HM; and flexible = 3 HC, 9 HM. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that the use of MF has a significant effect on arch drop. The difference in the number of flexible HM vs. flexible HC also suggests that the use of MF is more likely to result in flexible arches. This may be because the minimal arch support in MF allows HM to be accustomed to a greater amplitude of arch motion during walking. Further investigation with a larger sample size could provide additional evidence as to the significance of these arch metrics.



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