SportsOneSource Media: March 22, 2012
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder, running shoes make running physiologically easier than going barefoot. The study, published online in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, began by recruiting 12 well-trained male runners with extensive barefoot running experience.
The New York Times indicated that a few previous studies have indicated that it’s easier to go barefoot in terms of physiological effort since more effort is required to handle the extra weight of a shoe.
In the new study, Runners were asked to run multiple times on treadmills while either wearing shoes (the Nike Mayfly at 150 grams) or unshod. When unshod, runners wore thin yoga socks to protect them from developing blisters and for hygiene purposes for the treadmills. Next, according to the Times' article, 150 grams’ worth of thin lead strips were taped to the top of runners’ stockinged feet. Adding an equal amount of weight to the bare foot promised to reveal whether barefoot running was physiologically more efficient than wearing shoes.
Researchers found that when barefoot runners and shod runners carried the same weight on their feet, barefoot running used almost 4 percent more energy during every step than running in shoes.
“What we found was that there seem to be adaptations that occur during the running stride that can make wearing shoes metabolically less costly,” Jason R. Franz, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado who led the study, told the Times. The researchers believe that when barefoot, forces generated by the collision of foot and ground shift to the leg muscles absent the cushioning provided by shoes.
Moreover, the study found that even when unweighted barefoot running was compared foot-to-foot with running in the Mayflies, 8 of the 12 runners were slightly more efficient wearing shoes, even though they added more weight.
The study only looked only at the metabolic efficiency of wearing shoes, versus not. The scientists didn’t evaluate whether barefoot running lowers injury risk.
The Times article concluded in part, that "serious racers might want to mull over the trade-off between having less mass on their feet when barefoot versus having greater potential strain on their leg muscles."
But for the average runner, Dr. Franz recommends that a more lightweight model might be better for many given that some cushioning spare leg muscles from extra train yet avoids the metabolic cost to wearing heavy running shoes.
VIVOBAREFOOT NEO Trail
The VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail is a great all around shoe that while it can be used for pretty much any activity from walking or cross-training but I found that I got the most comfort & satisfaction from them by taking them on the trails. Let me tell you that I am not that much of a trail runner myself and find more comfort on the roads. For me, the Neo is designed just for trails as I could feel my foot could mold around the rocks and uneven ground more than the flat road-what I’m trying to say it was more comfortable being on an uneven surface than the alternative.
All the shoes come with a removable insole but are intended to be worn without. The insole is strictly used for people who are transitioning or have a personal preference; however the shoes are designed for it to be removed leaving a 3.5mm outsole for ultimate barefoot experience.
The sole of the shoe is very supportive and made of durable rubber and provides from the debris that you will encounter on the trail. The exterior of the shoe is made of a thick mesh material but is still breathable. The shoe is comfortably tight around the ankle and the tread creates a very smooth foot strike. This curve to the tread helps to keep out water and moisture while keeping the foot very dry even while running in wet conditions. The toe box is very wide-wide enough that at first I questioned if I had the right size or not. VIVOBAREFOOT makes it that way so that when your foot strikes your toes will absorb the impact and not be restrict, thus giving it more of a natural running feel. When I say this, I mean that there is plenty of room for your toes to wiggle around and flex them back and forth which gives your foot more room to expand and contract with each step.
If you’re looking for s study minimalist shoe to use over rough terrain, the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trails deserves attention & respect. The no drop heel & thin, aggressive tread provide an amazing feel for the ground that will satisfy any minimalist shoe wearer’s requirement and don’t forget about the extra wide toe box that gives your feet enough room to move with each step without feeling constricted.
I spoke about the treads on the soles of the shoes as they have amazing traction in everything from wet & sticky conditions with Fall leaves on the ground to your typical muddy ground. The shoe laces are a little long so I had to double tie them, but that is not that big of a deal considering the awesomeness of these shoes.
On one last note, these shoes do demand some respect as there is little cushioning compared to your typical running shoe and you should follow the directions given by easing into them slowly and building up your muscles and helping avoid injury.
The Neo Trails weigh in at 6.9 oz and list for $130 and are well worth every penny. For more information go to: www.vivobarefoot.com
"I have found in my practice that people even with chronic foot and ankle problems are finding relief when they shed their shoes."
In my practice I see a lot of foot injuries, everything from plantar fasciitis to neuromas, and the thing I have been telling most of them....THROW AWAY YOUR SHOES! Barefoot running or running in minimal footwear seems to be all the craze right now. Even companies like Nike who at one time were putting electronics into their shoes are now selling minimalist footwear. So why should you consider your next pair of shoes to be minimalists or the ones God gave you?
Harvard University’s skeletal biology lab summarized their findings, "Our research asked how and why humans can and did run comfortably without modern running shoes. We tested and confirmed what many people knew already: that most experienced, habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The bulk of our published research explores the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. We show that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod or barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact transients that occur when you heel strike (shod or barefoot). Consequently, runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground. Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing. If impact transient forces contribute to some forms of injury, then this style of running (shod or barefoot) might have some benefits, but that hypothesis remains to be tested."
As many of us know, how we run is more important than what is on our feet. What the researchers at Harvard are showing is that forefoot or midfoot strikes are the best. I have found in my practice that people even with chronic foot and ankle problems are finding relief when they shed their shoes.
So how do you start barefoot running? Here is a list of steps you can begin with:
- Land gently on your forefoot and gradually let the heel come down.
- Transition slowly (don’t go all barefoot all at once, start off running around the block).
- Stretch your calves and Achilles tendon.
- Don’t do anything that causes pain.
- Listen to your body and run totally barefoot to learn good form.
- Buy minimal shoes that lack high heels and stiff soles. (Zero drop)
- Consult a doctor who has knowledge about barefoot running or running in minimalist shoes.
As Christopher McDougall said, "The only people against barefoot running is the ones who haven’t tried it."
Dr. Wayne T. Hansen is a chiropractor at Solutions Clinic in Cottonwood Heights. He can be reached at
See also: http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu