June 13, 2012 – WebMD recently reported on a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine where over a dozen studies on the benefits and risks of barefoot running were presented. Researchers from across the U.S. reviewed the use of “minimalist” footwear, barefoot running, and speed benefits that runners claim help their activity.
Some studies focused on the benefits of barefoot running. In one trial, 12 runners did a couple six-minute runs on a treadmill; one barefoot and one with shoes. The barefoot run resulted in the participants breathing less heavily and feeling less tired at the end. The leader of the study, Joel R. De Paoli, MS, believes that the runners may become more efficient without shoes because their heels normally strike the ground first when wearing footwear, but their forefoot strikes first when running barefoot.
Other studies warned about the dangers of barefoot running, as it could lead to higher risk of injuries. An Internet survey asked 109 runners about foot injuries they had sustained while barefoot running for the first time. Out of the group, 18 of the runners mentioned a muscle or bone injury, while 16 others reported injuries to the bottoms of their feet.
Experts, such as Christel Kippenhan, PhD, from Bemidji State University in Minnesota, caution runners that not everyone will benefit from barefoot running. It’s a matter of learning what your body feels most comfortable doing and what you can tolerate during your run.
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