There is nothing quite like running barefoot .. literally ..
There are few studies which examined barefoot versus simulated barefoot versus shod running and this is one of them (1). The forefoot strike pattern and shorter stride length (or increased cadence, provided velocity is constant) often associated with barefoot running, as well as simulated barefoot running seems, to decrease vertical impact loading rates, depending upon the angle of the foot on landing and seem desirable for decreasing injury risk (2-4).
Running barefoot has the greatest amount of ankle dorsiflexion, plantar flexion and thus total range of motion with the knee flexion angle being the least when comparing it to shod and stimulated barefoot running. stride length was shorter and cadence increased, as was suspected and has been reported in many other studies. It is surprising that and stimulated barefoot running, the forefoot strike was there however cadence and stride length did not really change.
In short, the runners were able to simulate some elements of barefoot running, but they did not completely mimic it.
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Leblanc M, Ferkranus H. Lower Extremity Joint Kinematics of Shod, Barefoot, and Simulated Barefoot Treadmill Running. Int J Exerc Sci. 2018;11(1):717-729.
link to FREE FULL TEXT: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6033505/#b31-ijes-11-1-717
Shih Y, Lin KL, Shiang TY. Is the foot striking pattern more important than barefoot or shod conditions in running? Gait Posture. 2013;88(4):116–120. [PubMed]
Hobara H, Sato T, Sakaguchi M, Nakazawa K. Step frequency and lower extremity loading during running. Int J Sports Med. 2012;2012;33:310–313. [PubMed]
Thompson MA, Lee SS, Seegmiller J, McGowan CP. Kinematic and kinetic comparison of barefoot and shod running in mid/forefoot and rearfoot strike runners. Gait Posture. 2015;41:957–959. [PubMed]