New evidence on running shoes

If you frequent a trail or neighborhood that is popular with runners, you’ve most likely noticed a new trend: people running barefoot or with very odd-looking shoes that place for each toe. And if you’re a runner yourself, you’ve certainly come across – maybe even experimented with – the trend of barefoot running.

Books like ChiRunning and Born to Run make the case for lower-profile, less-cushioned shoes or none at all. Here at EBL, we’ve written about the phenomenon before – specifically the work of Harvard biologist Daniel Lieberman, who studies the biomechanics of barefoot running and how early humans survived by evolving the ability to travel long distances to hunt.

Now a new study – detailed by a New York Times blog – has found that wearing light-weight shoes, instead of going completely barefoot, is metabolically more efficient.

The researchers’ argument goes something like this:  Running with traditional running shoes, which weight 300 to 400 grams, increase the amount of energy required to run because with every step, the running is lifting those weights.  Over the miles, that extra energy adds up.

For this study, researchers compared runners in lightweight shoes – weighing 150 grams – to barefoot runners who ran with leaded strips weighing 150 grams taped to the top of their feet. Carrying the same weight, the study found that barefoot running was actually less efficient compared to wearing light-weight shoes.

“What we found was that there seem to be adaptations that occur during the running stride that can make wearing shoes metabolically less costly,” Jason R. Franz, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado who led the study, told the New York Times. Shoes, he says, “provide some degree of cushioning.” If you eschew shoes, “something else has to provide the cushioning.”

Without any shoes, a runner’s leg muscles require additional energy to provide this cushioning.

In fact, the study even found that unweighted barefoot running was slightly less efficient than running with light-weight shoes, even though the shoes added weight.

The study didn’t address other benefits that barefoot runners tout – namely a reduction in injuries from running without shoes. But the study does make the case for investing in a different kind of running shoe – not the cushioned, bulky trainer that was once popular, but a more protective, lighter shoe that protects feet without adding weight.

Comments

  1. Vicky says:

    Great information from old post. 😀

  2. mark says:

    VIVOBAREFOOT’ ULTRA’ LIGHTEST RUNNING SHOE IN THE WORLD

  3. runningshoes says:

    In case you have not worn this brand before you should give it a shot! These running shoes has a perfect fit and feels just great on your feet. Equipped with one of the best cushioning system being used for running shoes the Gel-Kayano 16 are comfortable and at the same time strong enough to support your weight while jogging.

    Compared to other running shoes, this model seems a little lighter, without affecting quality whatsoever.

    The ASICS 16 running shoes are well made and strong, so don’t worry about them wearing out any time soon, like some types of regular shoes that become battered and uncomfortable. The ASICS 16 has a heel stability that is maintained by the TPU plate which has been placed directly over the silicone gel unit; also, the forefoot tooling of these new ASICS Gel-Kayano 16 running shoes features an injected Solyte cap placed over the forefoot gel cushioning system. The special design was to reduce any tendency for arch pain and to make the jogger’s feet move more naturally and unconstricted.

    The ASICS producers claim that this model of running shoes has better control on the jogger’s tendency to pronate, by dissipating the forces in place as the user’s heel strikes the ground, causing these running shoes to greatly increase running efficiency and also decrease fatigue.

    • Colin says:

      Why does this sound like an advert for Asics shoes, which are exactly not the shoes described in the study?

  4. Adam says:

    This study is flawed from start to finish. They didn’t even get the barefoot runner to run barefoot, citing hygenine concerns. Apparently cleaning the treadmill between runners hadn’t occured to them.

    Pointless results.

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