See, Barefoot Running is NOT Bad for You

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running | Posted on 20-07-2012

The media is an interesting thing.

One day, they love you, the next day they hate you. As long as there’s controversy, they’re interested… ish.

The last time barefoot running made all the news it was when the University of Colorado study (done right up the hill from me) apparently showed that barefoot running was less efficient than running in shoes (see my analysis of that study here). In fact, when that study got published, the media went crazy, practically insisting that this was the death knell for those of us who run unshod.

So, I’m not sure what it means that they’ve basically ignored a new study from Northumbria University that shows the exact opposite!

Why are there no crazed headlines about how running without shoes really IS the greatest thing since bread, the slicer, and the sliced bread that comes from intelligently combining the two?

Who knows. Who cares.

More importantly, check out the info about the study here at

In short, if you want the synopsis: Runners used 6% more energy when they wore shoes. Here’s the line I like:

The results suggest that, by ditching their trainers, athletes new to barefoot running adopt a running style similar to experienced barefoot runners and enjoy an immediate and likely beneficial increase in running economy.

Works for me (in fact it DID work for me!)

Harvard Barefoot Running Studies Support Invisible Shoes

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running, Barefoot Running Shoes | Posted on 11-01-2012

What are the benefits of barefoot running?

Well, Harvard’s Dr. Daniel Lieberman has another answer. His studies from 2 years ago showed how barefoot runners who forefoot strike put less force into the ground and, therefore, less force into their joints.

Now he has 2 new studies that have just come out that support how proper barefoot running form and minimalist running shoes can result in fewer injuries and more efficient running.

Foot Strike and Injury Rates in Endurance Runners: a retrospective study” looked at college cross-country runners and found that those who heel-strike (landing on their heels first) had approximately twice the rate of injury than those who forefoot strike. For those of you who’ve been exploring barefoot running know, proper barefoot form involves landing on the forefoot first.

BTW, that doesn’t mean you “run on your toes” — your heel can naturally drop to the ground after the forefoot meets the ground first. In fact, letting your ankle relax is part of the natural spring mechanism of the leg.

You may also know that the easiest way to help train yourself to forefoot strike is to go barefoot or wear something genuinely minimalist, like Invisible Shoes. The more you can feel the ground when you run, the less you’ll want to land on your heel… because IT HURTS!

Be careful, though, many shoes that call themselves “minimalist” still have enough padding and protection between you and the ground that you lose the barefoot feel and can still heel strike. In fact a recent barefoot running study by ACE and some video of barefoot runners made by Pete Larson of showed that a majority of Vibram Fivefinger wearers still heel strike as they run. In my experience, this is probably because the VFFs have enough padding (especially the ones made for running, ironically) that the wearers can’t tell they’re still heel striking.

Dr. Lieberman’s other study, ”Effects of Footwear and Strike Type on Running Economy” demonstrated that runners in minimal footwear have increased efficiency than those in traditional running shoes.  Specifically, the study concluded that ”Minimally shod runners are modestly but significantly more economical than traditionally shod runners regardless of strike type, after controlling for shoe mass and stride frequency. The likely cause of this difference is more elastic energy storage and release in the lower extremity during minimal shoe running.”

If minimal shoes make you more efficient, that’s good news for us, since Invisible Shoes are about the most minimalist running shoe you can find. :-)

Running Sandals for Health!

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running, Running Sandals | Posted on 25-03-2010

Yet another study showing how running sandals and barefoot running could be better for your body!

Flip-flops and sneakers with flexible soles are easier on the knees than clogs or even special walking shoes, a study by Rush University Medical Center has found. And that’s important, because loading on the knee joints is a key factor in the development of osteoarthritis.

The study has been published online in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

“Traditionally, footwear has been engineered to provide maximum support and comfort for the foot, with little attention paid to the biomechanical effects on the rest of the leg,” said Dr. Najia Shakoor, a rheumatologist at Rush and the primary author of the study. “But the shoes we wear have a substantial impact on the load on the knee joints, particularly when we walk.”

“Our study demonstrated that flat, flexible footwear significantly reduces the load on the knee joints compared with supportive, stable shoes with less flexible soles.”

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and a significant source of disability and impaired quality of life. A higher-than-normal load on the knees during walking is a hallmark of the disease, associated with both the severity of osteoarthritis and its progression.

Shakoor and her colleagues analyzed the gait of 31 patients with symptoms of osteoarthritis in the Rush Motion Analysis Lab while they walked barefoot and with four popular shoe types: Dansko clogs, which are often worn by healthcare professionals who have to be on their feet much of the day; Brooks Addiction stability shoes, which are prescribed for foot comfort and stability; Puma H-Street shoes, a flat athletic shoe with flexible soles; and flip-flops.

The loads on the knee joints differed significantly depending on the footwear. For the clogs and stability shoes, the loads on the knee joints were up to 15 percent greater than with the flat walking shoes, flip-flops or barefoot walking. Knee loading was roughly the same whether the subject wore flips-flops or walked barefoot.

“Currently, knee braces and wedged orthotic shoe inserts are used to relieve the load on the knee joints of patients with osteoarthritis, but everyday footwear is also a factor to consider. The results in our study demonstrate that the reduction in load achieved with different footwear, from 11 to 15 percent, is certainly comparable to reduction in load with braces and shoe inserts ,” Shakoor said.

According to Shakoor, several aspects of footwear affect the joint loading.

“Heel height is one factor, and may explain why the stability shoes and clogs in our study, both of which had higher heels, produced greater knee loads,” Shakoor said.

“Stiffness is also a factor. We’ve shown in earlier studies that barefoot walking is associated with lower knee loads than walking with conventional footwear. It may be that the flexible movement of the bare foot is mechanically advantageous. The natural flex of the foot when it contacts the ground probably attenuates the impact on the joint, compared to the artificial ‘stomping’ movement created by a stiff-soled shoe.”

In the present study, Shakoor said, flip-flops and the walking shoe were flat, flexible and lightweight and seemed to mimic the mechanics when walking with bare feet.

“Clogs and stability shoes, conventionally believed to provide appropriate cushioning and support, actually increased the loading on the knee joints, as opposed to shoes with less ‘support,’ flatter heels and more flexibility,” Shakoor said.

Shakoor cautioned, however, that knee loading is not the only consideration in any clinical recommendations based on her study.

“For the elderly and infirm individuals, flip-flops could contribute to falls because of their loose-fitting design. Factors like these need to be taken into account,” Shakoor said.

Other researchers at Rush involved in the study were Dr. Mondira Sengupta, Dr. Kharma Foucher, Markus Wimmer, PhD, Louis Fogg, PhD, and Dr. Joel Block. Funding was provided by a grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois