Researchers at England’s Northumbria University analyzed the gait and oxygen uptake of 18 recreational and elite runners performing a series running tasks both barefoot and shod.
Dr. Michael Wilkinson, lead researcher and avid barefoot runner determined the following in their study:
- a significant saving in energy from taking off running shoes
- mechanical differences in the foot strike patterns (shod runners did more heel strike, unshod were more midfoot striking)
- there were immediate foot strike changes in previously shod runners who suddenly changed to unshod foot strike
- there is less oxygen use during barefoot running compared to running shod at the same speed. Hence improved running economy.
Characteristically, skilled unshod runners have a distinctive running gait utilizing:
- mid-foot landing
- shorter stride lengths
- faster stride rates
- reduced ground contact time
- lower impact force and loading rates which dampens injury inducing forces
- reduced oxygen utilization. The 6% improvement in economy was the same as that previously reported after a nine-week training program for shoe-wearing runners, who also enjoyed a 3% improvement in running performance.
Click on the link above for the Science article.