Sacramento Running News

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Lightweight Shoes vs. Barefoot?

March 01, 2012 By: John Blue Category: General Running News, Science

Proponents of barefoot running often speak of the improved efficiency of barefoot versus shod running, but for some reason we still don’t see many barefoot runners at a competitive level.

Why is this?

A recent study published online in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise worked to minimize the possible confounding factors that have plagued prior research.

To tease out the differences that could be attributed only to the shoes or lack of shoes, the researchers worked with experienced barefoot runners and all the runners in the study were midfoot strikers–with or without shoes.

Then, the researchers added weight to the feet of both the shod and barefoot runners and found, not surprisingly, that people use more oxygen as the weight of the foot or shoe increased.

The surprising discovery was that the shod runners used less oxygen at a given pace (i.e., ran more efficiently), regardless of the weight of the shoe or foot.

It’s possible that the barefoot runner’s leg muscles have to do extra work to counter the shock of the foot strike, but this is simply speculation at this point.

Alex Hutchinson at Sweat Science wrote a nice analysis of the study. It’s worth checking out.

In the meantime, run barefoot if you enjoy it, but don’t claim that it will make you run more efficiently. Sure, we really did evolve to run barefoot–but we also evolved to run without pants.

(Thanks to Lloyd for the tip!)


1 Comments to “Lightweight Shoes vs. Barefoot?”

  1. jacob2me says:

    I wonder more about running shorts that I do shoes. I sometimes see gents running in tight, compression-like shorts but I have yet to see a pair with the built-in underliner to keep “things” from rubbin together. Seems uncomfortable. Also, thanks for the tips on finding a coach a while back. I reached out to Chad Worthen for some tips and it proved useful. – Jacob


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