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Barefoot RunningA hot topic among runners these days is the idea of running barefoot, which may seem extreme to you. 

Barefoot running remains marginal, but more people are trying it because proponents believe they risk fewer injuries compared to shod or shoe-wearing runners. 

This claim is bolstered by a new study out of Harvard which is the first to measure and compare the force of the feet as they strike the ground in bare and shod runners.  

The study recruited two hundred American and Kenyan runners. They were placed in groups who never wore shoes, recently started wearing shoes and always wore shoes. The study – like others before it – clearly showed humans run differently in bare feet.     

The study also confirmed barefoot runners land on the ball of the foot, taking advantage of the flexible human arch and ankle, and use more calf and foot muscles. In comparison, researchers saw shod runners land on their heels. 

Next they measured the impact of the different foot strikes. They found shod runners hit the ground with a force of one and a half to two times their body weight with each foot strike. Barefoot runners only experience point five to point seven times their body weight.

That’s a reduction of about three fold in force for the barefoot runner! 

You may be tempted now to blame your high dollar shoes for your latest injury, but that’d be jumping the gun.  The study does not conclude barefoot running results in fewer injuries than shod running.  Further studies would need to establish that.

The fact is, your body has become used to running in shoes. Some running experts say going without will likely trade one set of potential injuries for another.

If you’d like to try running barefoot, make the transition gradually and find helpful tips in the links to the right.

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Barefoot running info & tips
This website has been developed to provide an evidence-based resource for those interested in the biomechanics of different foot strikes in endurance running and the applications to human endurance running prior to the modern running shoe. Includes training tips.
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The shocking truth about running shoes.
ScienceNow summary presentation about the primary article in the scientific journal - Nature.  Nice summary for the non-expert reader.  Interesting comments from readers and runners at the end of the posting.
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Styles of New Running Shoes Mimic Running Barefoot
Interesting Mayo clinic article on the recent trend in the design of running shoes that mimic barefoot running.
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Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners
Primary scientific report from a leading scientific journal. This report explains the results of the study from a biomechanical perspective. Interesting reading for those with some biomechanical engineering background. Still interesting even if you cannot understand the specific details.
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