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Barefoot Running Claims and Controversies

A Review of the Literature

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  • 1 Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ
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Background:

Barefoot running is slowly gaining a dedicated following. Proponents of barefoot running claim many benefits, such as improved performance and reduced injuries, whereas detractors warn of the imminent risks involved.

Methods:

Multiple publications were reviewed using key words.

Results:

A review of the literature uncovered many studies that have looked at the barefoot condition and found notable differences in gait and other parameters. These findings, along with much anecdotal information, can lead one to extrapolate 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.

Conclusions:

Although there is no evidence that either 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 who understand and can minimize the risks. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 101(3): 231–246, 2011)

Corresponding author: David W. Jenkins, DPM, Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, 19555 N 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85308. (E-mail: djenki@midwestern.edu)