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    Exercise Physiology

Barefoot Running and Energy Expenditure

Jodi Hilton for The New York Times Barefoot-running enthusiasts long have believed that running without shoes or in minimalist footwear makes running easier, speedier and less injurious. But a surprisingly large number of new studies examining just how the body actually responds when we run in our birthday shoes or skimpy footwear suggest that for many people, those expectations are not being met.

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The one thing about this article I find curious is they make no distinction as to whether or not the runners' are new to barefoot running or not.  I would expect someone who is used to running in the protection of a conventional shoe to... more »The one thing about this article I find curious is they make no distinction as to whether or not the runners' are new to barefoot running or not.  I would expect someone who is used to running in the protection of a conventional shoe to experience discomfort or injury if they picked up barefoot/minimalist running and continued with the same mileage they were achieving with their normal shoe.  | When I went through basic training, we were issued our combat boots and it was written in to the policy that we were only allowed to wear them for appoximately two hours a day for a week.  The rest of the time we wore cross trainers.  This gave our feet time to adjust to the heavy and stiff environment of a combat boot.  So, why would you not allow yourself a period of adjustment when moving to something with less support where your foot needs to depend on itself for support? 12-06-2013 8:08am

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Comment by Justin Alexander

This doesn't surprise me. I was never into this whole trend when it made its original debut. It seems that Dr. Gruber's conclusion in this article is the most logical recommendation that can be made about barefoot running. | Her recommendation is... more »This doesn't surprise me. I was never into this whole trend when it made its original debut. It seems that Dr. Gruber's conclusion in this article is the most logical recommendation that can be made about barefoot running. | Her recommendation is fairly consistent with the tone of Lieberman, 2012 in his paper "What We Can Learn About Running from Barefoot Running: An Evolutionary Medical Perspective" - that is, wear what works! The study provided that was posted in The Journal of Applied Physiology is also interesting to compare with Lieberman et al, 2010 which looked at collision forces in rear-foot strike, mid-foot strike, and fore-foot strike for barefoot runners.  | I never quite understood how barefoot running became so popular. Something about taking a more reductionistic view on human functions through a more primitive lens seems to be "in" lately. Before I get off my soapbox, I'd like to end with a quote from "Barefoot running: an evaluation of current hypothesis, future research and clinical applications" by Tam et al, 2013: | "The current promotion of barefoot running is based on oversimplified, poorly understood, equivocal and in some cases, absent research, but remains a trend in popular media based solely on an evolutionary/epidemiological hypothesis and anecdotal evidence." | I laughed at his choice of the word "solely" in the conclusion. 04-13-2014 10:22pm

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Comment by Chris Villarosa

All it takes is for a couple of runners to be very "successful" with a new, trendy model and off we go.  Barefoot running has actually been around for many years.  Zola Budd was a top woman runner in the 80's and she ran... more »All it takes is for a couple of runners to be very "successful" with a new, trendy model and off we go.  Barefoot running has actually been around for many years.  Zola Budd was a top woman runner in the 80's and she ran barefoot!  But it took more stories from everyday runners touting the decreased injuries, etc.. (and a good marketing campaign) to make it a trend.  In five years we will be off to something else! 04-14-2014 6:06am

In the area of exercise physiology, one topic that was widely discussed was regarding how one could run and benefit from barefoot training. This is the main topic in “Barefoot Running and Energy Expenditure” article. The main goal of the authors... more »In the area of exercise physiology, one topic that was widely discussed was regarding how one could run and benefit from barefoot training. This is the main topic in “Barefoot Running and Energy Expenditure” article. The main goal of the authors was to show the findings regarding the minimalistic running, not that barefoot-style running is inadvisable or disadvantageous for all runners, but only that the question of whether barefoot is best is not easily answered or totally recommended. Since running a medium distance is part of most of the sports today, it was natural to look for new methods of training for the athletes from time to time. Looking at this article, one can observe the findings and decide if he should or not adopt this method of training. The research presented that one could achieve optimal results with regular shoes and modified technique as well. Maybe the technique of a movement is more important than the equipment in question. Some people believe that a good player would be able to play at a high level even with a low tech gear. 09-26-2014 12:12pm

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Comment by Kethan Darbar

This could be because I'm flat footed that I do not do very well in regular cross training shoes.  Also since I do martial arts barefoot, I am most comfortable that way and am training any most everything to use the ball of your foot... more »This could be because I'm flat footed that I do not do very well in regular cross training shoes.  Also since I do martial arts barefoot, I am most comfortable that way and am training any most everything to use the ball of your foot rather than the heel.  When I slam my heel down first it seem to jolt my knee cap.  If you look at the angle of the ball of the foot to knee it makes sense.  The ball of the foot is straight up to the cap so it would seem to me the force of striking the ground would be easier to dissolve with the spring that seems to be built more into the ball of the foot rather than the heel.  I of course do not have any sort of study to back that up but is going by personal experience.  Thanks for the topic.  Best, Robin 03-07-2015 6:18pm

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Comment by Robin Hill

I've always wonder what the appeal was to these silly looking shoes! I guess there wasn't much benefit to them after all. But hey, if you are running and get used to the new shoes and running style you are probably still doing more than most people sitting around. 01-06-2017 4:16pm

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Comment by Carly Fulbright

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