Update on Barefoot Running Benefits

Barefoot Running – It’s Less Efficient

Bare­foot or min­i­mal­ist run­ning has been attract­ing adher­ents as a more phys­i­o­log­i­cal­ly nat­ur­al way to run.

A “nor­mal” run­ner lands on the heel with each stride.  In the min­i­mal­ist style, the run­ner lands on the front part of the foot.  Pro­po­nents of fore­foot land­ing say that the front-of-the-foot land­ing style is more phys­i­o­log­i­cal­ly nat­ur­al and is less like­ly to lead to runner’s overuse injuries.

But there’s one ben­e­fit that bare­foot run­ners can no longer claim – increased ener­gy effi­cien­cy.

In the most care­ful research con­duct­ed to date, at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado in Boul­der, researchers test­ed run­ners who were expe­ri­enced in both run­ning styles.  When they switched from rear-foot land­ing to fore­foot-land­ing, they became 4% less effi­cient.

The sci­en­tists spec­u­late that the drop in effi­cien­cy occurs because the heel cush­ion­ing of a con­ven­tion­al run­ning shoe absorbs some of the impact of land­ing.  By con­trast, when land­ing on the fore­foot, the runner’s own calf mus­cles have to work hard­er to decel­er­ate the land­ing.  That uses extra ener­gy.

The research did not test whether min­i­mal­ist run­ning offered oth­er ben­e­fits, such as a decreased like­li­hood of overuse injury.

So if you’re look­ing to shave a few sec­onds off your time in a 10K, stick with a con­ven­tion­al run­ning style and con­ven­tion­al run­ning shoe.

On the oth­er hand, if you’re a recre­ation­al run­ner, or if you’ve had injury issues when you’ve tried to increase your mileage, you may want to exper­i­ment with a fore­foot-land­ing style.  It may offer some pro­tec­tive ben­e­fits.  Each body is dif­fer­ent, so there may be a spe­cif­ic rea­son why your legs and feet are bet­ter suit­ed to the fore­foot land­ing pat­tern of gait.

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About Aaron Bynen

Aaron is a health conscious individual living in the Pacific Northwest.

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One Response to Update on Barefoot Running Benefits

  1. Lou Renner says:

    If you’re a recre­ation­al run­ner and not rac­ing, the odds of notic­ing a 4% (plus or minus) change in effi­cien­cy is about 0%.

    Also, there’s some debate about the con­clu­sions drawn from the study (includ­ing whether the sub­jects test­ed were even accom­plished bare­foot run­ners).

    I liked (and linked to) the arti­cle at http://www.invisibleshoe.com/1372/

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