Barefoot running: current hypothesis, future research and clinical applications

30 Jan 2014 - 12:15

by Nicholas Tam

Barefoot running has become a popular topic of interest, driven by various claims. Mass media, evolutionary anthropologists and pro-barefooters are convinced that we are born to run barefoot. Benefits that are proposed include treatment for injury, strength and more economical running.


Our recent review published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found a remarkable lack of evidence to support the benefits of barefoot running for injury prevention and performance. We are also lead to believe that barefoot running is a skill that  is acquired (like driving a car) over a period of extended practice.


This article debates the current scientific evidence for and against barefoot running. What is noted that often injuries encountered when wearing shoes (usually occurring in the knee) maybe exchanged for different type of injuries (stress fractures in and around the ankle). Other, proposed changes include running on the forefoot is a supposed adaptation when barefoot, however, evidence has shown that when running barefoot one may still land on the rear foot, which may lead to injury.


Those seeking a miracle cure for running related injuries should note that barefoot running may not be the sole answer and that benefits of barefoot running may require an accommodation period and may not be immediate. Thus, caution should be made when attempting barefoot running.


The team of Dr Ross Tucker, Devon Coetzee and myself are currently completing an 8-week study investigating the ability for individuals to adapt to barefoot running by assessing their biomechanical, neuromuscular and metabolic adjustments and another study describing the influence of fatigue on barefoot and shod  running gait. Watch this space for further information on the results of these studies...


The full review can be found here: