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  • New in the Literature: Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running (US Army Med Dep J. 2012 Oct-Dec:25-30)

    Barefoot and minimalist shoe wearers reported a more anterior footstrike than traditionally shod runners, say authors of an article that will be published in the October-December issue of the US Army Medical Department Journal. Traditionally shod runners were more likely to report injuries of the lower extremities than runners who wear minimalist shoes.  

    For this retrospective descriptive epidemiology survey, the authors recruited 2,509 runners (1,254 male, 1,255 female) aged 18 to 50 to complete an anonymous online survey. The survey assessed running tendencies, footstrike patterns, shoe preferences, and injury history. Reported footstrike patterns were compared among 3 shoe groups: traditionally shod, minimalist shoes, and barefoot runners. Overall and specific anatomical injury incidence was compared between traditionally shod and minimalist shoe-wearing runners. They did not include 1,605 runners in the analyses due to incomplete data or recent changes in footstrike patterns and/or shoe selection.

    Shoe selection was significantly associated with reported footstrike (χ² (4df) =143.4). Barefoot and minimalist runners reported a more anterior footstrike than traditionally shod runners. Traditionally shod runners were 3.41 times more likely to report injuries than experienced minimalist shoe wearers (46.7% shod vs 13.7% minimalist, χ² (1df) =77.4, n=888). Minimalist shoe wearers also reported fewer injuries at the hip, knee, lower leg, ankle, and foot than traditionally shod runners.

    Additional longitudinal prospective research is required to examine injury incidence among various footstrike patterns and shoe preferences, the authors add.

    The article was written by APTA members Donald L. Goss, PT, DPT, PhD, OCS, ATC, and Michael T. Gross, PT, PhD, FAPTA.


    • I can only speak for myself. I am 57 years old and have been running consistently since my early 20s. 3.5 years ago I made the transition to running barefoot. The changes in my feet and reduction of injury has been nothing short of miraculous. I am now running 80-100 miles a week consistently with no problems. I have never had this much fun running. I did face some initial challenges, mostly from a bunion on my left big toe, but I proceeded with caution and worked through it. Now the bunion is gone and my toe continues to straighten out. My only regret is that I did not take a weekly photo to document the dramatic changes in my feet. When I'm not running in my bare feet, my shoe of choice is the Invisible Shoe. All the fun and benefits of being barefoot, while providing a layer of protection. Awesome product!

      Posted by bill on 9/27/2012 5:13 PM

    • Seems legit but would prfer that over half the subject's data not have to be excluded. I'm a very theoretical scientist - alwas examining how work could have been better. I love my minimalist shoes! would be interesting to hear about muscle strains etc. over tome I guess those reduce as runners adapt to tje ne running style?

      Posted by Joy on 9/27/2012 11:15 PM

    • I'm concerned about stress fractures to the heads of the metatarsals

      Posted by Jennifer Robbins -> >LTc=I on 9/28/2012 9:44 PM

    • I understand the process of barefoot running having benefits for individuals. I personally feel that there is a tremendous benefit in having the support of a good running shoe to assist in the prevention of soft tissue, musculoskeletal joint structures and integumentary issues on multiple running surfaces. I think that supporting the foot structure as it changes with varying age development is crucial.

      Posted by Heidi Harris on 9/29/2012 9:53 AM

    • I think this limited study shouldn't be used to say one method is better than another for all runners. It doesn't study the quality of shoe or preparation habits training habits of runners in both groups. Are those runners who are willing to try barefoot running a different type of runner, with different training? Did they switch due to specific issues so it's only valid for runners who used poor patterns before switching shoes? Too many details for good understanding. Do orthotics in standard shoes level the results??? And did it include runners who tried barefoot shoes and switched back to standard shoes?

      Posted by Ellyn Dunford on 9/29/2012 11:24 AM

    • The research and conclusions appear to rely on a self-reported estimation of one's footstrike pattern. How, exactly, does one accurately know what their footstrike pattern is without third-party analysis? Seems like a flawed research design with suspect assumptions.

      Posted by Bob Schroedter on 10/5/2012 11:53 AM

    • Perhaps, some population will be benefit from these type of shoes but for people that already has poor ankle biomechanics, those shoes will not give enough foot support and cushioning for long distance running

      Posted by Yvoinne Nguyen on 10/5/2012 7:38 PM

    • Like Bill (from 9/27 post) I can speak from a sample size of one. I am a "clydsedale", weighing around 200 pounds, so I had always subscribed to the "more is better" philosophy regarding cushion and support shoes. I have made a gradual progression to mininmal shoes and plan to continue to bare foot eventually. I am faster and have less aches and pains with minimal footwear, with one exception. About a year into my transition I tore a calf muscle 12 miles into a half marathon. I attribute this injury to the classic "too much, too soon" rule regarding my speed and mileage. So my take home point is that, while I'm convinced that minimal is the way to go, we have to be careful (and advise our clients likewise) and bear in mind that most of us have to re-learn to walk and run barefoot.

      Posted by Jake on 10/8/2012 2:53 PM

    • I find the whole barefoot/minimalist running fad comical. Anyone who has run track, with good coaching and mechanics, knows about fore/midfoot running. Look at the bottom of track shoes, where are the spikes? In the forefoot! And we ran on dirt or now synthetic surfaces to avoid overstressing our metatarsals (to a degree). And we ran on the road with the same mechanics, without heel striking. But recreational folks feet are not prepared to handle concrete barefoot or in minimalist shoe, unless they have good mechanics, strong calf musculature and have gradually progressed into fore/midfoot running. This progression can take months to over a year to tolerate.

      Posted by Ken B on 10/10/2012 1:11 AM

    • This is to bill.how long did it take for your toes and bunion to straighten out.I've just gone into NB minimal.got bruised feet n aches n pains but my bunions started to give me sharp pains.is this due to the toe bmoving how it should.how did you get through the bunion problem for it to go.should I just ride through my pains till my feet gain the strength.I've been in orthotics for 4 months n they made my feet worse.I also have fallen arches which I was told wat caused my bunion.but I changed podiatrists n he says to give the minimal a go n that bunions can come from a number of reason.let is know what you went through.as I'd just like the price of mind to know it csnbe done cos I don't want to have to go through the dreaded surgery on the feet.

      Posted by paul on 5/1/2013 11:08 AM

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