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Barefoot Running?

Barefoot versus shoe running: from the past to the present.



Barefoot running is not a new concept, but relatively few people choose to engage in barefoot running on a regular basis. Despite the technological developments in modern running footwear, as many as 79% of runners are injured every year. Although benefits of barefoot running have been proposed, there are also potential risks associated with it.


To review the evidence-based literature concerning barefoot/minimal footwear running and the implications for the practicing physician.


Multiple publications were reviewed using an electronic search of databases such as Medline, Cinahl, Embase, PubMed, and Cochrane Database from inception until August 30, 2013 using the search terms barefoot running, barefoot running biomechanics, and shoe vs. barefoot running.


Ninety-six relevant articles were found. Most were reviews of biomechanical and kinematic studies.


There are notable differences in gait and other parameters between barefoot running and shoe running. Based on these findings and much anecdotal evidence, one could conclude that barefoot runners should have fewer injuries, better performance, or both. Several athletic shoe companies have designed running shoes that attempt to mimic the barefoot condition, and thus garner the purported benefits of barefoot running.


Although there is no evidence that confirms or refutes improved performance and reduced injuries in barefoot runners, many of the claimed disadvantages to barefoot running are not supported by the literature. Nonetheless, it seems that barefoot running may be an acceptable training method for athletes and coaches, as it may minimize the risks of injury.


Phys Sportsmed. 2014 Feb;42(1):30-5. doi: 10.3810/psm.2014.02.2045.

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