Metabolic Cost of Running Barefoot versus Shod: Is Lighter Better?

Locomotion Lab, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.
Medicine and science in sports and exercise (Impact Factor: 3.98). 02/2012; 44(8):1519-25. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182514a88
Source: PubMed


Based on mass alone, one might intuit that running barefoot would exact a lower metabolic cost than running in shoes. Numerous studies have shown that adding mass to shoes increases submaximal oxygen uptake (V˙O(2)) by approximately 1% per 100 g per shoe. However, only two of the seven studies on the topic have found a statistically significant difference in V˙O(2) between barefoot and shod running. The lack of difference found in these studies suggests that factors other than shoe mass (e.g., barefoot running experience, foot strike pattern, shoe construction) may play important roles in determining the metabolic cost of barefoot versus shod running. Our goal was to quantify the metabolic effects of adding mass to the feet and compare oxygen uptake and metabolic power during barefoot versus shod running while controlling for barefoot running experience, foot strike pattern, and footwear.
Twelve males with substantial barefoot running experience ran at 3.35 m·s with a midfoot strike pattern on a motorized treadmill, both barefoot and in lightweight cushioned shoes (∼150 g per shoe). In additional trials, we attached small lead strips to each foot/shoe (∼150, ∼300, and ∼450 g). For each condition, we measured the subjects' rates of oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production and calculated metabolic power.
V˙O(2) increased by approximately 1% for each 100 g added per foot, whether barefoot or shod (P < 0.001). However, barefoot and shod running did not significantly differ in V˙O(2) or metabolic power. A consequence of these two findings was that for footwear conditions of equal mass, shod running had ∼3%-4% lower V˙O(2) and metabolic power demand than barefoot running (P < 0.05).
Running barefoot offers no metabolic advantage over running in lightweight, cushioned shoes.

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    • "As a result, running economy in minimalist shoes has been investigated only at low running speeds (Lussiana, Fabre, Hébert-Losier, & Mourot, 2013; Moore, Jones, & Dixon, 2014; Perl, Daoud, & Lieberman, 2012), which are not always associated with performance in races or simulated races (e.g., time trial) (Storen, Helgerud, & Hoff, 2011; Williams & Cavanagh, 1987). Minimalist shoes improve running economy over short distances because of their reduced mass (Divert et al., 2008; Franz et al., 2012) and this could facilitate improved running performance . However, running performance is assessed over greater distances than those used to determine running economy and challenges more mechanisms of neuromuscular fatigue (Nicol, Komi, & Marconnet, 1991a). "
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to determine if minimalist shoes improve time trial performance oftrained distance runners and if changes in running economy, shoe mass, stride length, stride rate andfootfall pattern were related to any difference in performance. Twenty-six trained runners performedthree 6-min sub-maximal treadmill runs at 11, 13 and 15 km·h−1in minimalist and conventional shoeswhile running economy, stride length, stride rate and footfall pattern were assessed. They thenperformed a 5-km time trial. In the minimalist shoe, runners completed the trial in less time (effectsize 0.20 ± 0.12), were more economical during sub-maximal running (effect size 0.33 ± 0.14) anddecreased stride length (effect size 0.22 ± 0.10) and increased stride rate (effect size 0.22 ± 0.11). All butone runner ran with a rearfoot footfall in the minimalist shoe. Improvements in time trial performancewere associated with improvements in running economy at 15 km·h−1(r= 0.58), with 79% of theimproved economy accounted for by reduced shoe mass (P< 0.05). The results suggest that running inminimalist shoes improves running economy and 5-km running performance.
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    • "But our results suggest that there may be cases where external energy dissipation could actually help to reduce active energy absorption (and therefore positive work) by the human, and thus save metabolic energy or yield more subjective benefits. Indeed, some findings suggest that a cushioned surface can actually reduce the metabolic cost of running (Franz et al., 2012; Frederick et al., 1983; Tung et al., 2014). Cushioning also allows subjects to run with less knee flexion (Ferris et al., 1998; Ferris and Farley, 1997), which might reduce the mechanical work performed. "
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    • "Di Prampero et al. (1993) reported that a 5% improvement in RE elicited a 3.7% improvement in endurance running performance. This improvement in RE may be the result of specific training (Franch et al. 1998; Barnes et al. 2013) or ergogenic factors, such as a reduction in shoe mass (Frederick 1984; Divert et al. 2008; Franz et al. 2012), as Frederick (1984) found that an increase in shoe mass of 100g per foot can reduce RE by 1%. "
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    ABSTRACT: In recent years there has been an increase in participation in timed running events. With this increase, the motivation for individuals to run their best has motivated the running shoe industry to make design changes to traditional running foot wear in an effort to improve running economy (RE) and decrease running times. One such design change has been to incorporate mechanical springs (MS) into the midsole of the running shoe. Evaluation of this technology has yet to be performed. This study recruited 17 runners (12 male) and had them run at a submaximal steady state speed for 2 bouts of five minutes at a speed of 3.13 m∙sec-1. The order of shoe condition was randomly assigned and the subjects ran one interval in their own running shoe (OS) and one interval in MS shoes. Metabolic data and heart rate data were averaged over the last three of the five minute efforts. No significant difference was found between MS and OS with regards to shoe weight. Running in MS resulted in lower, non-significant values for steady state ventilation and steady state heart rate. Oxygen consumption was significantly lower in MS compared to OS in both absolute (MS: 2.35 ± 0.47 L∙min-1 vs. OS: 2.40 ± 0.473 L∙min-1, P=0.022) and relative (MS: 34.67 ± 4.35 ml∙kg-1∙min-1 vs. OS: 35.34 ± 4.58 ml∙kg-1∙min-1, P=0.033) terms. Running in shoes fitted with MS technology improves running economy over OS and this technology may assist athletes achieve their best running times
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