There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life. But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint. So, too, are you. Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be.
- George Sheehan

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Barefoot Running Research

There still is not a lot of definitive scientific research out there today to support whether shod or barefoot running is really better in the long run.  Thus, neither side can stand up and say for sure that shod or barefoot is better than the other.  What I can show, though, are some research studies dealing with various topics within the barefoot running world.  The most famous is the research done by Dr. Lieberman at Harvard University.  His study reveals some surprising and very encouraging stats regarding foot strikes, impact forces, etc between shod and barefoot runners.  I encourage you to flip through his extensive website to learn more, as there is just so much interesting information to cover in a single blog post:

This video sums up Dr. Lieberman's research and provides some good visuals:

A recent study by the University of Massachusetts made a few of the following conclusions:
  • Midsole cushioning in shoes doesn't do as much as people think it does
  • There seems to be little difference between minimalist shoes (in the case of the study, shoes with 4mm drop, so not Merrells or Vibram FiveFingers) and highly cushioned running shoes in terms of shock absorption (unfortunately, test subjects landed on their heels in both types of shoes)
  • Barefoot runners had lower impact forces than both the "minimalist" shoes and highly cushioned shoes
Unfortunately, there were issues with this study.  The runners were not experienced barefoot runners, so they did not apply a midfoot strike in their minimalist shoes.  The "minimalist" shoes used were not as minimalist as they could have been.  But despite the flaws, the study does support the fact that barefoot running seems to be lower impact than shod running.  And it also supports the idea that minimalist runners really should learn to run barefoot first, and then apply this different style of running to their minimalist shoes in order to lower the stress on their legs and feet.

Is barefoot truly better than shod running?  Like the article said, scientifically speaking, we still don't know.  It works for me though, and that's all I care about.

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