Five "finger" athletic shoes are hot, but are they safe?

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - They aren't you're dad's sneakers. Even though they fit your toes like glove, people call them five finger athletic shoes.  After wearing them for a while, Laura Patterson described them this way.  "Different, they'd take a little bit of getting used to but I like them."

Local running legend and store owner Jennie Peters says lots of people are buying them.  She says, "They simulate being barefoot with just a little bit of a cover." So-called minimalist shoes are designed to reduce injuries by letting the feet hit the ground naturally the way they would without shoes.

The problem is some people are launching into aggressive work outs before their feet have had a chance to adapt limiting any protection the shoes may have offered. Peters say foot doctors are seeing the damage. "Lot of times metatarsal stress fractures, stress fractures in the foot and nerve issues." The manufacturer recommends a three month transition period before starting a high impact work-out in five finger shoes.

At her store, Peters says she's happiest when the person buying them knows what they need to do. "I do like to see are people who are gonna transition over the months from real short runs on grass all the way up to all the way to what they intend to do."

Minimalist shoes have good arch support and a protective soles for the front and middle of the feet. Still for some, the appearance alone is a turn-off. Five finger shoes aren't for everyone, but for those who can wear them, they feel pretty good.

Peters recommends anyone consider getting five-finger athletic shoes check with a foot doctor first.  If you have questions, you can find her at her store, Varsity Sports on Perkins Road near City Park.

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