Science-- there's something for everyone

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Barefoot running may be best

Things I’d rather not know about….

Specialty shoes have long been a staple of running. Lately, however, there has been a contingent of runners and doctors who insist that running barefoot is much healthier. After all, our feet and legs evolved to run barefoot, not to wear shoes. They claim that running barefoot reduces knee, ankle and foot problems. Now, a new study by D. Casey Kerrigan of the University of Virginia shows that the barefooters may be right.

The investigators used 68 volunteers (31 men, 37 women) with no history of musculoskeletal injury who normally run at least 15 miles/week in running shoes. Reflective markers were used to analyze the subjects’ motion and joint torques as they ran either with or without shoes on a specially designed treadmill.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that running in shoes increased the torque on subjects’ knees by about 35% compared with running barefoot.

The authors recommend that running shoe manufacturers strive to create a product that more closely mimics the lower joint torques of running barefoot.

In the meantime, barefoot enthusiasts suggest that people throw away their running shoes for good. Although they offer suggestions for acclimating your feet to heat, cold or gravel, I think I’ll stick to my shoes.