Barefoot running: Biomechanics and implications for running injuries

1Biomechanics and Movement Science Program, 301 McKinley Lab, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Current Sports Medicine Reports (Impact Factor: 1.55). 09/2012; 11(5):244-50. DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31826c9bb9
Source: PubMed


Despite the technological developments in modern running footwear, up to 79% of runners today get injured in a given year. As we evolved barefoot, examining this mode of running is insightful. Barefoot running encourages a forefoot strike pattern that is associated with a reduction in impact loading and stride length. Studies have shown a reduction in injuries to shod forefoot strikers as compared with rearfoot strikers. In addition to a forefoot strike pattern, barefoot running also affords the runner increased sensory feedback from the foot-ground contact, as well as increased energy storage in the arch. Minimal footwear is being used to mimic barefoot running, but it is not clear whether it truly does. The purpose of this article is to review current and past research on shod and barefoot/minimal footwear running and their implications for running injuries. Clearly more research is needed, and areas for future study are suggested.

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    • "As a result of these findings, several methods, such as gait pattern relearning strategies [10], landing pattern modification [11], and barefoot running [12], have been purported to lower injury risk by altering the kinetics during impact. Although controversial, barefoot running has been proposed to be effective in lowering loading rates of VGRF [13]. A study comparing biomechanical differences between habitual shod and habitual barefoot runners suggested that barefoot running, through modulating landing pattern, decreases both VALR and VILR, compared with shod running [14]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Barefoot running has been proposed to reduce vertical loading rates, which is a risk factor of running injuries. Most of the previous studies evaluated runners on level surfaces. This study examined the effect of surface inclination on vertical loading rates and landing pattern during the first attempt of barefoot running among habitual shod runners. Twenty habitual shod runners were asked to run on treadmill at 8.0 km/h at three inclination angles (0°; +10°; −10°) with and without their usual running shoes. Vertical average rate (VALR) and instantaneous loading rate (VILR) were obtained by established methods. Landing pattern was decided using high-speed camera. VALR and VILR in shod condition were significantly higher ( p < 0.001 ) in declined than in level or inclined treadmill running, but not in barefoot condition ( p > 0.382 ). There was no difference ( p > 0.413 ) in the landing pattern among all surface inclinations. Only one runner demonstrated complete transition to non-heel strike landing in all slope conditions. Reducing heel strike ratio in barefoot running did not ensure a decrease in loading rates ( p > 0.15 ). Conversely, non-heel strike landing, regardless of footwear condition, would result in a softer landing ( p < 0.011 ).
    BioMed Research International 06/2015; 2015(5):e240153. DOI:10.1155/2015/240153 · 2.71 Impact Factor
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    • "Shod runners have been shown to have higher ankle dorsiflexion moments in the FFS condition (Rooney and Derrick, 2013; Stearne et al., 2014; Williams et al., 2000) which this research concurs with (as all mid-late stance peak ankle moments were external dorsiflexion moments). Some explanations have stated that landing in the FFS pattern results in the shorter stride length (Altman and Davis, 2010; Diebal et al., 2012) and therefore the foot lands closer to center of mass of the body, effectively reducing the moment arm of the GRF to the hip, knee, and ankle likely reducing joint moments (Altman and Davis, 2012). This research partially supports this idea with respect to knee joint moments which were significantly lower during the FFS condition although dorsiflexion moments were significantly higher during FFS condition, which agrees with results of past research (Arendse et al., 2004; Rooney and Derrick, 2013; Stearne et al., 2014; Williams et al., 2000). "
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of foot strike patterns and converted foot strike patterns on lower limb kinematics and kinetics at the hip, knee, and ankle during a shod condition. Subjects were videotaped with a high speed camera while running a 5km at self-selected pace on a treadmill to determine natural foot strike pattern on day one. Preferred fore-foot group (PFFG, n = 10) and preferred rear foot group (PRFG, n = 11) subjects were identified through slow motion video playback (n = 21, age = 22.8±2.2 years, mass = 73.1±14.5 kg, height 1.75 ± 0.10 m). On day two, subjects performed five overground run trials in both their natural and unnatural strike patterns while motion and force data were collected. Data were collected over two days so that foot strike videos could be ana-lyzed for group placement purposes. Several 2 (Foot Strike Pattern –forefoot strike [FFS], rearfoot strike [RFS]) x 2 (Group – PFFG, PRFG) mixed model ANOVAs (p < 0.05) were run on speed, active peak vertical ground reaction force (VGRF), peak early stance and mid stance sagittal ankle moments, sagittal plane hip and knee moments, ankle dorsiflexion ROM, and sagittal plane hip and knee ROM. There were no significant interactions or between group differences for any of the meas-ured variables. Within subject effects demonstrated that the RFS condition had significantly lower (VGRF) (RFS = 2.58 ± .21 BW, FFS = 2.71 ± 0.23 BW), dorsiflexion moment (RFS = -2.6 1± 0.61 Nm • kg -1 , FFS = -3.09 ± 0.32 Nm • kg -1), and dorsiflexion range of motion (RFS = 17.63 ± 3.76°, FFS = 22.10 ± 5.08°). There was also a significantly higher peak plantarflexion mo-ment (RFS = 0.23 ± 0.11 Nm • kg -1 , FFS = 0.01 ± 0.01 Nm • kg -1), peak knee moment (RFS = 2.61 ± 0.54 Nm • kg -1 , FFS = 2.39 ± 0.61 Nm • kg -1), knee ROM (RFS = 31.72 ± 2.79°, FFS = 29.58 ± 2.97°), and hip ROM (RFS = 42.72 ± 4.03°, FFS = 41.38 ± 3.32°) as compared with the FFS condition. This research sug-gests that acute changes in foot strike patterns during shod run-ning can create alterations in certain lower limb kinematic and kinetic measures that are not dependent on the preferred foot strike pattern of the individual. This research also challenges the contention that the impact transient spike in the vertical ground reaction force curve is only present during a rear foot strike type of running gait.
    Journal of sports science & medicine 03/2015; 14(1):225-232. · 1.03 Impact Factor
    • "Barefoot running has received considerable attention in the scientific literature as of late [1]. Much of the interest has been driven by media claims of potential performance benefits and reduced injury risk. "
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    ABSTRACT: Barefoot running has been associated with decreased stride length and switching from a rearfoot strike (RFS) pattern to a mid/forefoot strike (M/FFS) pattern. However, some individuals naturally contact the ground on their mid/forefoot, even when wearing cushioned running shoes. The purpose of this study was to determine if the mechanics of barefoot running by natural shod RFS runners differed from natural shod M/FFS runners. Twenty habitually shod runners (ten natural M/FFS and ten natural RFS) participated in this study. Three-dimensional motion analysis and ground reaction force data were captured as subjects ran at their preferred running speed in both barefoot and shod conditions. M/FFS experienced only a decrease in stride length when switching from shod to barefoot running. Whereas, when switching from shod to barefoot running, RFS individuals experienced a decrease in stride length, switched to a plantarflexed position at ground contact and saw reduced impact peak magnitudes. These results suggest that when barefoot, the RFS group ran similar to the M/FFS group running barefoot or shod. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Gait & Posture 03/2015; 11(4). DOI:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2015.03.002 · 2.75 Impact Factor
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