Runner’s World Sports Doc on Barefoot Running

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Quick post here to alert you to a nice little article by the Runner’s World Sports Doc, William Roberts, titled “The Mechanics of Barefoot Running.” It’s nice to see a major running publication addressing the positive benefits of barefoot/minimalist running in an objective and scientific way. Although I’m not a barefoot runner myself, I have run barefoot a few times, and believe very strongly in the positive benefits of minimalist running (if done carefully – see my podcast on the subject here). Here’s a short excerpt from the article that hones in on the barefoot footstrike:

During a forefoot strike, less of the body comes to a dead stop at the moment of impact, so there is less force involved in the collision.  In addition, the motion is more springy, thus dissipating the force of the foot landing over a longer period of time and slowing the rate that forces travel up to the rest of the body (knee, hip, pelvis, spine, and head).  Landing on the fore or mid foot, however, requires an eccentric load on the calf muscles and the Achilles tendon to keep the heel from slapping down on the ground.  A heel strike is basically a collision between the heel and the ground without the benefit of the mid and fore foot structures minimizing and slowing the shock.  This shock wave is a potential source of injury, but no one has yet conducted any studies to test if transitioning to a barefoot style of running would stave off injury.

Nice to see some solid biomechanical analysis here! To read the full article, follow this link: http://sportsdoc.runnersworld.com/2010/05/the-mechanics-of-barefoot-running.html

Update: Thanks to Tuck in the comments below for pointing out that Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run (check out my take on Born to Run here), has written a lengthy post on his blog about this new Runner’s World Sports Doc Post (he’s for the most part very complimentary toward it). In it, McDougall talks a bit about the seeming change in perspetive coming from Runner’s World, and even makes the suggestion that the running industry may be officially moving away from “motion-control” shoes. It’s a fascinating read, and one that’s definitely worth a look – check it out here: Dr. Runner’s World and Mr. Hyde.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

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