Research Behind Barefoot Running

New research shows that barefoot running might not be as beneficial as previously thought. Researchers at the University of Colorado found that barefoot runners expend 4% more energy with every step than those who run with shoes. The difference in energy expenditure resulted from the lack of shoe cushioning, which put the entire force of impact with the ground on the leg muscles. This suggests that it may be physiologically easier on your feet to wear lightweight shoes.

Nevertheless, barefoot running can reduce injury rates. Humans have been running barefoot for ages; running shoes were only invented in the 1970s. Research suggests that the heavily cushioned, elevated heels of modern running shoes encourage runners to strike the ground with their heel first. This motion generates a greater collision force with the ground, which increases the potential for injury. Also wearing footwear increases the likelihood of ankle sprains, one of the most common sports injuries, because it either decreases your awareness of your foot position or increases the twisting torque on your ankle during a stumble.

If you decide to go barefoot, use caution. New barefoot runners continue to land heavily on their heels, which can result injury. Make sure you hit the ground with the front or middle of your foot. This can take some adjustment, so make the transition to barefoot running slowly. Begin by only running on softer surfaces, such as sand, grass or a dirt path.