Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Comparing Running Barefoot Versus Nike Free, Lunaracer And Own Running Shoes

Nike Free 3.0

This recently published article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine caught my eye as it compared highly trained runners running in four conditions namely, barefoot, running in a Nike Free 3.0, Nike Lunaracer 2 and their own running shoe. Well, good news if you have knee pain, but not so good news if you have ankle, foot, Achilles or calf pain.

22 highly trained, high-level runners (average 10km time of 33 mins) were chosen by the researchers. Each were given a pair each of Nike Free 3.0, Nike Lunaracer 2 and they had 10 days to run in them and barefoot to get used to them. In addition they also ran in their regular running shoes (on average 125-140 g heavier than the 2 Nike shoes given).

The runners were filmed and their running gait measured using 8 force plates. After a warm up, they did 10 running trials in each of the four conditions (running barefoot, Free, Lunaracer, own running shoe). Their average speed was fast, at 4.48 m/s (or 6 min miles).

And the results? Well, the study showed that running barefoot ia a lot different than running in shoes, but the different shoes did not differ much.

One real difference though was that the runners tended to have a shorter, quicker stride in the Nike Frees and Lunaracers compared to their own regular shoes (average cadence of 183.9 steps/ min versus 181.3).

Key differences between barefoot running versus running in shoes were numerous. Barefoot running elicited a shorter stride length than all shod conditions. There was also higher cadence than all shod conditions (average 187.7 steps/ min). Flatter foot placement at contact and greater ankle plantarflexion at toe off were also observed.

There were also less work done at the knee (24% less when barefoot compared to own running shoe). There was greater joint movements and more work done at the ankle though.

The authors summarized by adding that knee and ankle mechanics were different when running barefoot compared to all shod conditions, including minimalist shoes. Meaning that the minimalist shoe cannot entirely replicate the mechanics of running barefoot.

What does this all mean for you, the runner? Well, this article confirms that running barefoot mechanics are different compared to running in a well cushioned shoe. Running barefoot tends to reduce work done in your knees, but increase work done in your ankles.This means that barefoot running will help those with knee pain but may stress your foot, calf, Achilles and ankle more. So good for those with knee pain but not so great for those with ankle, calf, foot, Achilles pain.

The researchers also acknowledged that the Nike Free may not be really considered a minimalist shoe (given its elevated heel and cushioning available). Wearing a more "minimalist" shoe like the Vibram Five Fingers may be closer at replicating barefoot running although even ultra minimal running shoes will not be be a perfect replication to running without footwear.

Lesson here is that wearing minimalist shoes may not instantly replicate barefoot running. I personally feel your running form is more important. Please also see this and this.

Email me if you want a copy of the article.


Bonacci A, Saunders PU et al (2013). Running In A Minimalist And Lightweight Shoe Ia Not The Same As Running Barefoot: A Biomechanical Study. BJSM. 47: p 387-392.

*Picture from

1 comment:

  1. What a great concept for differentiate this both barefoot and running shoes I really very happy to know about how our ankle and knee are working with or without shoes and which part of our legs are affected from shoes or barefoot.
    Very good data for me I also learn some technical concept form your article.
    Thankyou very much.

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