Some people just can’t get enough of the whole barefoot method running shoe thing, and back up their fancy footwear choice with claims of a more natural gait and fewer injuries.
There’s a theory that forefoot striking is better than heel-striking, and that the extra padding on normal running shoes prevents a forefoot landing.
While that may be true, scientists are now saying that the supposed benefits are all hogwash!
The New York Times summarized the findings of the scientific study as follows:
"In the end, this data showed that heel-striking was the more physiologically economical running form, by a considerable margin. Heel strikers used less oxygen to run at the same pace as forefoot strikers, and many of the forefoot strikers used less oxygen — meaning they were more economical — when they switched form to land first with their heels."
So unfortunately for toe shoe fanatics like Hugh Jackman, Vibrams style sneakers are not only an eyesore, they actually tire you out more than standard tennies.
Also, a third of toe shoe wearers have attributed the the footwear to injuries, so that positive characteristic doesn’t really exist either.
It doesn’t mean the whole barefoot thing is bad for you, but letting your toes wiggle around freely while exercising isn’t necessarily as great as many people think.
You can read the official abstract from Journal of Applied Physiology (below):
"It continues to be argued that a forefoot (FF) strike pattern during running is more economical than a rearfoot (RF) pattern; however, previous studies using one habitual footstrike group have found no difference in running economy between footstrike patterns. We aimed to conduct a more extensive study by including both habitual RF and FF runners. The purposes of this study were to determine whether there were differences in running economy between these groups and whether running economy would change when they ran with the alternative footstrike pattern. Nineteen habitual RF and 18 habitual FF runners performed the RF and FF patterns on a treadmill at 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 m/s. Steady-state rates of oxygen consumption (Vo2, ml·kg(-1)·min(-1)) and carbohydrate contribution to total energy expenditure (%CHO) were determined by indirect calorimetry for each footstrike pattern and speed condition. A mixed-model ANOVA was used to assess the differences in each variable between groups and footstrike patterns (α = 0.05). No differences in Vo2 or %CHO were detected between groups when running with their habitual footstrike pattern. The RF pattern resulted in lower Vo2 and %CHO compared with the FF pattern at the slow and medium speeds in the RF group (P < 0.05) but not in the FF group (P > 0.05). At the fast speed, a significant footstrike pattern main effect indicated that Vo2 was greater with the FF pattern than with the RF pattern (P < 0.05), but %CHO was not different (P > 0.05). The results suggest that the FF pattern is not more economical than the RF pattern."
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