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Running in a minimalist and lightweight shoe is not the same as running barefoot: a biomechanical study

Abstract

Aim The purpose of this study was to determine the changes in running mechanics that occur when highly trained runners run barefoot and in a minimalist shoe, and specifically if running in a minimalist shoe replicates barefoot running.

Methods Ground reaction force data and kinematics were collected from 22 highly trained runners during overground running while barefoot and in three shod conditions (minimalist shoe, racing flat and the athlete's regular shoe). Three-dimensional net joint moments and subsequent net powers and work were computed using Newton-Euler inverse dynamics. Joint kinematic and kinetic variables were statistically compared between barefoot and shod conditions using a multivariate analysis of variance for repeated measures and standardised mean differences calculated.

Results There were significant differences between barefoot and shod conditions for kinematic and kinetic variables at the knee and ankle, with no differences between shod conditions. Barefoot running demonstrated less knee flexion during midstance, an 11% decrease in the peak internal knee extension and abduction moments and a 24% decrease in negative work done at the knee compared with shod conditions. The ankle demonstrated less dorsiflexion at initial contact, a 14% increase in peak power generation and a 19% increase in the positive work done during barefoot running compared with shod conditions.

Conclusions Barefoot running was different to all shod conditions. Barefoot running changes the amount of work done at the knee and ankle joints and this may have therapeutic and performance implications for runners.

  • Running
  • Running shoes
  • Biomechanics
  • Gait analysis

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