Minimal shoes may reduce running injuries

Runners who wear running shoes with no cushioning and land on the ball of their foot rather than the heel put significantly less demand on their bodies, new research suggests.

University of Exeter, Science Daily November 21,  2015

Researchers compared how quickly the force acts when runners’ feet hit the ground — known as the loading rate — which has been shown to influence running injury risk.

The study of 29 runners found significantly lower loading rates for those who wore so-called minimal running shoes and landed on the ball of their foot, compared to people in normal running shoes, regardless of whether the latter landed on the heel or ball of the foot.

Lead author Dr Hannah Rice, of the University of Exeter, said: “So many people use running as a means of reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but about three quarters of runners typically get injured in a year.

“Footwear is easily modifiable but many runners are misguided when it comes to buying new running shoes.

“This research shows that running in minimal shoes and landing on the balls of your feet reduces loading rates and may therefore reduce the risk of injury.”

Running continues to grow in popularity, and research aimed at reducing the high incidence of running-related injuries has been ongoing for decades — but injury rates have not fallen.

Modern-day runners in cushioned footwear tend to land on their heel — known as a “rearfoot strike” — while those who run in the natural barefoot state are more likely to land on the ball of their foot— a “forefoot strike.”

Rearfoot strike runners experience an abrupt vertical impact force each time the foot lands on the ground.

This impact force is often missing when running with a forefoot strike, but previous research has shown that forward/backwards and sideways forces can be higher with a forefoot strike, meaning the total force is similar.

Total force seems to be similar between foot strikes if wearing modern, cushioned running shoes.

Dr Rice said: “This seems to suggest that, for runners in traditional, cushioned running shoes, foot strike pattern may not matter for injury risk.

“However, we suspected that the same may not be true of runners who regularly use minimal shoes, which don’t have the cushioning provided by traditional running shoes.

“Our research tells us that becoming accustomed to running with a forefoot strike in shoes that lack cushioning promotes a landing with the lowest loading rates, and this may be beneficial in reducing the risk of injury”

Any transition to new footwear or to a different foot strike pattern should be undertaken gradually, and with guidance.

Footwear Matters: Influence of Footwear and Foot Strike on Load Rates during Running, Rice HM, Jamison ST, Davis IS. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Dec;48(12):2462-2468. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001030

Source University of Exeter via Science Daily


Professor Irene Davis talks about the benefits and risks of running barefoot. Uploaded on YouTube Apr 26, 2011

Led by Dr Hannah Rice of the University of Exeter, the paper was co-authored by Dr Steve Jamison and Professor Irene Davis, both of the Spaulding National Running Center, Harvard Medical School

Is There a Metabolic Advantage for Trail Runners Wearing Minimalist Footwear?
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Newswise 2 December 2016

Minimalist shoes are a new commercially available athletic footwear now gaining strong popularity among both road and off-road runners. Scientists have observed a better running economy (i.e. reduced oxygen uptake for a given speed) in runners wearing minimalist shoes during exercises lasting less than 10 minutes.

In this study, the investigators examined the effects of minimalist versus conventional shoes on running economy before and after an 11.5 mile trail run in traditionally shod runners. The findings indicated no metabolic advantage of wearing minimalist footwear after trail running where substantial changes in foot strike pattern, calf pain or mechanical behavior were observed only in the minimalist condition.

Although the metabolic benefit of wearing minimalist footwear is evident in the non-fatigued condition, future studies should examine whether these benefits are maintained with fatigue in experienced minimalist trail runners.

Effects of Footwear and Fatigue on Running Economy and Biomechanics in Trail Runners,
Vercruyssen F, Tartaruga M, Horvais N, Brisswalter J. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Oct;48(10):1976-84. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000981.

Source Newswise

Also see
Whoa there! A quick switch to ‘barefoot’ shoes can be bad to the bone in Brigham Young University
Minimal footwear may reduce running injuries, study finds in The Irish Times
Does barefoot running prevent injuries? in Pain Science
Running Shoes Changed How Humans Run in Live Science
Your Running Shoes Don’t Matter in Outside Magazine
Barefoot Running Shoes vs Minimalist Running Shoes: 5 Key Features To Look For in The Fun Times Guide
Cushioned Heel Running Shoes May Alter Adolescent Biomechanics, Performance in Science Daily

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