Barefoot running – watch your step

Usually, as small children we spend a lot of time running around barefoot, as we grow shoes and trainers become de rigueur for most of us, especially if we’re involved in sport. And, Zola Budd and other top athletes aside, there were few who went running barefoot, at least until about ten years ago when barefoot, or “minimalist”, running started to become trendy. It is purportedly better for you in terms of the body’s biomechanics, the stresses and strains and the possibility of injury. Of course, unless you’re somewhere pristine, like a gym treadmill, there are the risks of thorns, stones, broken glass, dog mess and more if you’re a minimalist runner out in the field, as it were.

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But, are those claims for BF running valid? A friend of mine who had a motorbike injury many years ago that left him unable to run reckons he’s rediscovered his ability to run by going minimalist. And, good luck to him! But, I did a very quick scan of the scientific literature on BF running, there are quite a few papers around and notably one published in the August issue of Human Movement Science (2015 Aug; 42:27-37. DOI: 10.1016/j.humov.2015.04.008) that suggests that just 30 seconds on a treadmill barefoot, even if you usually wear trainers to run, is enough for the body to adapt to the new format. However, there are significant changes in the kinematics and electrical activity of muscles in the lower leg, not all of which are positive, according to the paper. First, BF running seems to be performed with higher cadence and shorter strides, there is an increase in ankle ROM (range of motion) but this decreases in the knee and hip. Activity in the gastrocnemius goes up, but falls in the tibialis anterior. This preliminary study was small, just ten volunteer runners.

The team point out that although the runners adapt to barefoor running on a treadmill quickly, “these rapid adjustments in muscle recruitment and kinematics did not appear to reduce stress on the lower limb, since tibial shock was significantly higher during the BF running” at all three running speeds tested. They conclude that, “It therefore remains to be seen if a transition to running barefoot is truly desirable for improved performance or reduced risk of injury,” and add that, “Further research examining long-term injury rates is therefore required before a transition to barefoot running can be recommended.”

Author: bob投注平台

Award-winning freelance science writer, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rockstar.