Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Barefoot Running Versus Running In Shoes

Here's the latest and hottest debate in online running forums this past week after this article was published last week in the Nature journal (reference below). The article reviewed landing patterns while running barefoot or with running shoes and which produced more forces. You know what, the barefoot debate is about to get hotter.

The scientists studied 5 different groups of runners and had them run barefoot and in shoes while measuring their foot strike patterns, (whether the runner landed on their heels, midfoot or forefoot) impact forces, loading rate and joint angles .

What did they find? The runners who ran barefoot landed more towards the fore and mid foot. Nothing new here as many previous studies showed this already. They also found that while running barefoot the runners had a reduction in loading rate and peak impact forces (3 times lower in fact).

We know in theory that with higher impact forces means greater injury risk and this paper's findings may suggest that people who run barefoot (or at least in minimalist shoes) may have a higher chance of avoiding injury.

I guess the media will probably have a field day over this and suggest that running shoes have caused all your injuries and that you should throw away your running shoes and start to run barefoot.

Now before you all go out and chuck your running shoes away, please bear this in mind. If you haven't at all been running barefoot or even in minimalist shoes and you go try and run say even 5km barefoot I bet you'll be sore and probably even get injured the next day. Why? Well, you are now loading your muscles and joints (that have been used to shoes) that are definitely not used to this sort of loading. Even the authors suggested that there needs to be more controlled studies on whether runners who run barefoot have reduced injury rates.

So the question remains on whether barefoot running reduces injury rates or help you run faster. Well, what we do know from this latest study is that barefoot running may protect you, your feet and lower limbs from some of the impact related injuries experienced by a high percentage of runners. If you want to try it, please do so progressively.

If you enjoyed this please also see this and this and please pass this information on. Please email me if you want the articles referenced below.


Jungers W (2010). Biomechanics: Barefoot Running Strikes Back. Nature. 463: 433-434.

Liberman DE, Venkadesan M et al. (2010). Foot Strike Patterns and Collision Forces in Habitually Barefoot versus Shod Runners. Nature. 463: 531-535.

*Picture from Nature cover

No comments:

Post a Comment