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Barefoot running: the conversation continues


Running au naturel could feel freeing or painful, and runners and sports medicine specialists argue both ways about going bare…foot. As previously reported on Scope, sans-shoe or reduced-shoe running has been shown to promote landing further forward on the foot, which may prevent injury, but the practice could introduce other physical problems if adopted into a routine too quickly.

At this year's British Science Festival in Newcastle, U.K., an overview of research suggested that runners who wish to begin running barefoot should introduce the practice slowly into their routine. A BBC News article on the conference proceedings reports that experts differ on recommendations for running footwear, but they agree that more research needs to be conducted.

From the article:

[Mick Wilkinson, PhD, an exercise physiologist from Northumbria University] was one of the first people to run the Great North Run completely barefoot, which he did in 2011. But he believes that those using thin-soled shoes which claim to emulate barefoot running may be missing out on the potential benefits from running without footwear.


"Studies in the late 80s suggest there needs to be a sense of friction before the impact avoidance behaviour is triggered. So if you put anything between you and the ground, even if it's only 4mm thick, people tolerate extremely high vertical loads, without doing anything about it," Dr Wilkinson explained.

Other researchers suggest that thinner-soled shoes still encourage front-foot striking and the associated benefits. According to Mark Burnley, PhD, a senior lecturer in exercise physiology at the University of Kent, barefoot running "will save you money on shoes, but is not some injury-eliminating/performance-enhancing panacea."

Previously: Seeking to reduce stress on the body, some runners are reversing their strideIs barefoot running better for the body? and “Barefoot” running craze still going strong
Photo by Gordon Tarpley

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