Article

Barefoot Running Claims and Controversies A Review of the Literature

Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ 85308, USA.
Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association (Impact Factor: 0.65). 05/2011; 101(3):231-46.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Barefoot running is slowly gaining a dedicated following. Proponents of barefoot running claim many benefits, such as improved performance and reduced injuries, whereas detractors warn of the imminent risks involved.
Multiple publications were reviewed using key words.
A review of the literature uncovered many studies that have looked at the barefoot condition and found notable differences in gait and other parameters. These findings, along with much anecdotal information, can lead one to extrapolate that barefoot runners should have fewer injuries, better performance, or both. Several athletic shoe companies have designed running shoes that attempt to mimic the barefoot condition and, thus, garner the purported benefits of barefoot running.
Although there is no evidence that either confirms or refutes improved performance and reduced injuries in barefoot runners, many of the claimed disadvantages to barefoot running are not supported by the literature. Nonetheless, it seems that barefoot running may be an acceptable training method for athletes and coaches who understand and can minimize the risks.

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    • "Unlike conventional trainers, minimalist running shoes are not intended to control or change motion (Rixe et al., 2012). Although manufacturers and advocates propose that similar health benefits are gained from running in minimalist shoes as running barefoot (Jenkins & Cauthon, 2011), the extent to which this is true is unclear due to significant differences in joint angles when running barefoot versus in minimalist footwear (Bonacci et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Barefoot running describes when individuals run without footwear. Minimalist running utilizes shoes aimed to mimic being barefoot. Although these forms of running have become increasingly popular, we still know little about how recreational runners perceive them. In-depth interviews with eight recreational runners were used to gather information about their running experiences with a focus on barefoot and minimalist running. Interviews were analysed using a latent level thematic analysis to identify and interpret themes within the data. Although participants considered barefoot running to be ‘natural’, they also considered it to be extreme. Minimalist running did not produce such aversive reactions. ‘Support’ reassured against concerns and was seen as central in protecting vulnerable body parts and reducing impact forces, but lacked a common or clear definition. A preference for practical over academic knowledge was found. Anecdotal information was generally trusted, as were running stores with gait assessment, but not health professionals. People often have inconsistent ideas about barefoot and minimalist running, which are often formed by potentially biased sources, which may lead people to make poor decisions about barefoot and minimalist running. It is important to provide high-quality information to enable better decisions to be made about barefoot and minimalist running. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? There is no known work on the psychology behind barefoot and minimalist running. We believe our study is the first qualitative study to have investigated views of this increasingly popular form of running. What does this study add? The results suggest that although barefoot running is considered ‘natural’, it is also considered ‘extreme’. Minimalist running, however, did not receive such aversive reactions. ‘Support’ was a common concern among runners. Although ‘support’ reassured against concerns and was seen as central in protecting vulnerable body parts and reducing impact forces, it lacked a common or clear definition. A preference for practical over academic knowledge was found. Anecdotal information was generally trusted, as were running stores with gait assessment, but not health professionals. What is already known on this subject? There is no known work on the psychology behind barefoot and minimalist running. We believe our study is the first qualitative study to have investigated views of this increasingly popular form of running. What does this study add? The results suggest that although barefoot running is considered ‘natural’, it is also considered ‘extreme’. Minimalist running, however, did not receive such aversive reactions. ‘Support’ was a common concern among runners. Although ‘support’ reassured against concerns and was seen as central in protecting vulnerable body parts and reducing impact forces, it lacked a common or clear definition. A preference for practical over academic knowledge was found. Anecdotal information was generally trusted, as were running stores with gait assessment, but not health professionals.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · British Journal of Health Psychology
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    • "In that particular study, habitual barefoot runners adopt a nonheel strike (NHS) landing pattern and are observed to sustain lower loading rates than shod runners who typically run with a heel strike (HS) landing pattern [14]. This could partially explain the growing prevalence of barefoot running amongst running communities [15]. The theory that barefoot running will naturally convert habitual shod, heel strike runners to a NHS pattern was partially supported by a recent study, in "
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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 ).
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · BioMed Research International
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    • "Barefoot running has been a very popular topic in books, magazines, websites, as well as in scientific research (e.g. Hsu, 2012; Jenkins & Cauthon, 2011; Rothschild, 2012b), and almost every major shoemaking company has started marketing a minimalist or barefoot-like shoe line. New minimalist shoe companies are continually emerging (Altman & Davis, 2012a), to the point that in 2011 this market accounted for 8% of total running shoe sales in North America (Less Shoe, More Sales, Footwear Insight, 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Despite the growing interest in minimalist shoes, no studies have compared the efficacy of different types of minimalist shoe models in reproducing barefoot running patterns and in eliciting biomechanical changes that make them differ from standard cushioned running shoes. The aim of this study was to investigate the acute effects of different footwear models, marketed as "minimalist" by their manufacturer, on running biomechanics. Six running shoes marketed as barefoot/minimalist models, a standard cushioned shoe and the barefoot condition were tested. Foot-/shoe-ground pressure and three-dimensional lower limb kinematics were measured in experienced rearfoot strike runners while they were running at 3.33 m · s(-1) on an instrumented treadmill. Physical and mechanical characteristics of shoes (mass, heel and forefoot sole thickness, shock absorption and flexibility) were measured with laboratory tests. There were significant changes in foot strike pattern (described by the strike index and foot contact angle) and spatio-temporal stride characteristics, whereas only some among the other selected kinematic parameters (i.e. knee angles and hip vertical displacement) changed accordingly. Different types of minimalist footwear models induced different changes. It appears that minimalist footwear with lower heel heights and minimal shock absorption is more effective in replicating barefoot running.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · Journal of Sports Sciences
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