Found this article today while reading Chris Highcock’s Conditioning Research blog. He’s pulled together two new studies on “barefoot” running. I put barefoot in quotes because that’s what he called it. Yet, in both studies, all participants wore shoes.
Anyway… the results from the first report show that running in a forefoot strike versus a rearfoot or heal strike significantly reduced the injuries of collegiate cross country runners.
Competitive cross country runners on a college team incur high injury rates, but runners who habitually rearfoot strike have significantly higher rates of repetitive stress injury than those who mostly forefoot strike.
The second study tested the economy of runners wearing traditional running shoes vs. minimal shoes. They don’t describe what “minimal” shoes meant in the study, but the results showed that those who ran in them were more economical.
Minimally shod runners are modestly but significantly more economical than traditionally shod runners regardless of strike type, after controlling for shoe mass and stride frequency. The likely cause of this difference is more elastic energy storage and release in the lower extremity during minimal shoe running.
To my irritation, the barefoot community is jumping on this to bolster their claim that barefoot running is the injury-ending panacea for all runners. I again say that it really has little to do with what you wear on your feet and everything to do with how you apply your foot to the ground. These studies support that position since all of the subjects wore some sort of shoe! The barefooters can’t even claim that these studies support Five Finger running since the type of minimal shoe is never described.