Thursday, 28 January 2010

Barefoot best for running - study

Posted by speedygeoff on Thursday, January 28, 2010 with 3 comments
The best running shoe may be none at all, US researchers said.
Runners who don't wear shoes may be less likely to do serious injury to their feet, because they hold their feet differently, researchers at Harvard University found.
Writing in the journal Nature, they said runners who wore shoes tended to hit the ground with their heels first, whereas barefoot runners put the balls of their feet down first.
"People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," Professor Daniel Lieberman said.
"By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike.
"Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain.
"All you need is a few callouses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot."
Prof Lieberman and his colleagues at Harvard, the University of Glasgow, and Kenya's Moi University studied runners who had always run barefoot, those who had always worn shoes and runners who had abandoned shoes.
Barefoot runners had a springier step overall, and used their calf and foot muscles more efficiently, they found.
Demonstrations can be seen at
People used to running in shoes should not start barefoot trotting right away, Prof Lieberman cautioned.
"If you've been a heel-striker all your life, you have to transition slowly to build strength in your calf and foot muscles," he said.
But he noted that evolution was on his side.
"Humans have engaged in endurance running for millions of years, but the modern running shoe was not invented until the 1970s," he said.


  1. I'll have to read the study, but you do wonder about people with conformational issues. Pronators, supinators, people with angular limb deformities etc. Barefoot will likely be good for those with a relatively normal gait, but do they have the numbers on those with gait abnormalities?

  2. Whenever I go to the oval to do some tempo, intervals type running, I will run bare feet on the grass except in winter when the grass is too cold or long. I also like to run the sand on the beach very occassionally bare feet. It does change the way you run, back to how our ancestors ran before shoes were invented. The reason you don't get injured is your toes dig in to assist foot lift off, therefore the arch of the foot is pushed higher. This moves pressure off the archilles to the calf, and hamstring. Modern shoes are made to land heel first, then roll depending on your foor motion, pronate, normal or supinate. Barefoot is the other way round. I will run 15 kms on the grass bare foot, doesn't do any damage whatsoever. In fact you are more at one with the earth than running in shoes on the road. Try it some time, it's great.
    My tempo/intervals are equally as fast or faster as when wearing shoes, certainly don't lose out there against the clock.

  3. Well, we all ran barefoot once - even with gait abnormalities ;)

    I did a lot in the old days. In the new days the Frees are pretty damn close to barefoot and I can run on gravel with them. Alternating the Frees with 'normal' shoes seems to have kept the injuries away - touch wood!

    Thanks for staying out of lane 6 2F ;)