Barefoot running – Is it better? Part 1

by | Mar 18, 2015

Part 1

You may have heard the claim that barefoot running is more natural as it promotes a front-foot strike (FFS) pattern. The idea is that shoes are a modern invention that interfere with the normal foot-strike pattern and mechanics.

Is it true?

With respect to the research that is out there, the jury is still out on the positives and negatives of barefoot or minimalist running. The systematic reviews1 that have looked at barefoot runnings only find research that is of low to moderate quality. The moderate quality evidence does suggest differences such as less maximum ground reaction forces, less foot/ankle dorsiflexion at contact, less ground contact time, shorter stride length, increased stride frequency, increased knee flexion at contact when barefoot running. However, there is no evidence that clearly says these differences make barefoot running better or worse. There may be some conditions/circumstances where barefoot running may be helpful but research has not yet made them known. However, the well-respected exercise physiologist and runner Dr. Peter Larson suggests that there may never be an answer and we should use the footwear that feels comfortable/works for us.

Should I try it?

Barefoot PictureI think that it is certainly possible to consider barefoot running if done cautiously and progressively, but there are still many unknowns. We do, however, know more about foot strike, and this may be something more appropriate for you to adjust in certain known circumstances.

FFS is not necessarily more natural. Research shows that the majority, ~90%, of runners use a rear-foot strike (RFS) pattern2-3. A not dissimilar number, ~70%, was seen when a habitually barefoot Kenyan tribe was studied4.

If this is the case, what has pushed people to recommend FFS and barefoot running? One reason may be a highly-publicized study of elite athletes that found RFS running to have twice the injury rate of FFS running5. But this study had two major limitations: it was of a very small sample group – only 52 athletes, and they were elite track athletes. This means that we have to consider the results with caution when giving advice to the much larger and diverse populations of recreational, youth, and even competitive runners. Other studies that have been more representative of the general population do not show any difference in injury risk or performance between foot-strike.

If your normal running pattern is comfortable for you, why change it?! Stay tuned for Part 2…

Reference List

1. Perkins KP, Hanney WJ, Rothschild CE. The risks and benefits of running barefoot or in minimalist shoes: a systematic review. Sports Health. 2014;6(6):475-80.

2. Larson P, Higgins E, Kaminski J, et al. Foot strike patterns of recreational and sub-elite runners in a long-distance road race. J Sports Sci. 2011;29(15):1665-73.

3. De almeida MO, Saragiotto BT, Yamato TP, Lopes AD. Is the rearfoot pattern the most frequently foot strike pattern among recreational shod distance runners?. Phys Ther Sport. 2015;16(1):29-33.

4. Hatala KG, Dingwall HL, Wunderlich RE, Richmond BG. Variation in foot strike patterns during running among habitually barefoot populations. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(1):e52548.

5. Daoud AI, Geissler GJ, Wang F, Saretsky J, Daoud YA, Lieberman DE. Foot strike and injury rates in endurance runners: a retrospective study. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012;44(7):1325-34.

What Is The Right Running Shoe For Me?!

Modern advances (and claims) have not done much for injury risk! Runners assign a huge level of importance to footwear ...
Read More
Carpal tunnel and neck pain care in huntsville and madison alabama

When is Carpal Tunnel Not Carpal Tunnel

There is often the assumption that numbness in the hand is due to carpal tunnel syndrome. However, oftentimes these symptoms ...
Read More
Huntsville Madison runners need strong soleus muscles to help avoid achilles problems

Why You Need a Strong Soleus!

Why You Need a Strong Soleus! The soleus is a big calf muscle, but oftentimes is unloved! It is actually ...
Read More
interview with a fitness professional in Huntsville and Madison with Joe Martin of Huntsville Adventure Boot Camp

Interview With Joe Martin of Huntsville Adventure Boot Camp

The Huntsville/Madison Health and Fitness Professionals I Trust #2 As a physical therapist it is often important to refer my ...
Read More
Evidence based treatment huntsville and madison alabama

Trick or Treat!

Trick or Treat - Is The Treatment To Good To Be True? When healthcare professionals recommend a treatment, it should ...
Read More
Ankle sprains live at physioworks in huntsville alabama providing top ankle physical therapy

What we do if Ankle Sprains Are Slowing us Down!

If you read our recent blog on ankle sprains (link here) you might be wondering what to do practically. This ...
Read More
Loading...

0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Barefoot Running - Part 2 - […] Last post we saw that research has not proven barefoot running to be better in general than running with…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

google logoPhysioWorks, Sports and Wellness, Inc.PhysioWorks, Sports and Wellness, Inc.
5 Stars - Based on 38 User Reviews

facebook logoPhysioWorks, Sports and Wellness, Inc.PhysioWorks, Sports and Wellness, Inc.
5 Stars - Based on 19 User Reviews

Never miss a blog!

After limping my way through a 100km trail race and finally giving in to my bilateral Achilles tendinopathy, I went to Andrew for help. His well researched approach to therapy helped me progress from barely walking to increasing my running mileage so that I could make it to the start line of my goal 100mi race a little over 3 months later. Andrew's passion for sports therapy is obvious. His methods are based on the latest research in Orthopedics. You won't find a better PT in the area.

Luke Hough Avatar Luke Hough
1/30/2019

I had a knee injury that was about 2 years old by the time I saw Andrew. A combination of hoping it would get better on it's own and just not taking the time to get something done about (it was more annoying rather than debilitating) resulted in me putting off addressing it.

I was impressed with Andrew's assessment skills and his ability to explain the different compensations I had developed as a result of my injured knee. The exercises were challenging but doable and I really appreciated the videos he supplied so that I could check my form. He... read more

Tameron Harvell Avatar Tameron Harvell
4/13/2018

Andrew is on top of the latest research and therapy practices! As a fitness instructor, being in good physical health is a job requirement. After an injury, Andrew worked to get me back up to speed quick! He takes time to address the physical as well as the mental aspects of recovery. Instead of needing to go for visits 3x per week, I saw him 3x over the course of a couple months and actually saved money. I appreciate the athlete log-in for videos so you can do them at home. Lastly, Andrew is an honest and dedicated professional. Would... read more

Tonya Meier Hardy Avatar Tonya Meier Hardy
2/07/2019