What: A research article was published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal by Carey Rothschild entitled, “Running Barefoot or in Minimalist Shoes: Evience or Conjecture?” (April 2012). The researcher studied the biomechanics and performance differences between barefoot/minimalist shoe running and regular shod (shoe) running.
Results: The researcher found that barefoot runners tend to be mid-foot or forefoot strikers. These type of foot striking positions lead to shorter stride length which may reduce forces that must be absorbed by the feet and legs. Furthermore, the researcher found that barefoot running can increase proprioceptive feedback (your body’s ability to react effectively to external forces) due to direct contact with the ground. Although barefoot running can increase proprioception in the body, wearing shoes compensate by increasing shock absorption, stabilization and provide traction. However, the study also pointed that these gains with shoes must be great in order to outweigh the loss of proprioception.
In terms of performance, the researcher found barefoot runners tended to have a lower heart rate, oxygen cost and perceived exertion than shoe runners.
So what: Barefoot and minimalist shoe running has become widely popular in the past few years. Especially with the widespread use of vibrams. This study shows the benefits of running barefoot or running with minimalist shoes while also highlighting the advantages of shoe running. If you choose to try out barefoot/minimalist shoe running, the study suggests that you take it slow and run no more than a quarter of a mile every other day for a week. You should also give yourself 4-8 weeks for the muscles in your feet and legs to adapt to the new running style.
Photo via Poi Photography
Research article highlighted by Bret Contreras and Chris Beardsley.