JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Comparison of minimalist footwear strategies for simulating barefoot running: a randomized crossover study

Karsten Hollander, Andreas Argubi-Wollesen, Rüdiger Reer, Astrid Zech
PloS One 2015, 10 (5): e0125880
26011042
Possible benefits of barefoot running have been widely discussed in recent years. Uncertainty exists about which footwear strategy adequately simulates barefoot running kinematics. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of athletic footwear with different minimalist strategies on running kinematics. Thirty-five distance runners (22 males, 13 females, 27.9 ± 6.2 years, 179.2 ± 8.4 cm, 73.4 ± 12.1 kg, 24.9 ± 10.9 km x week(-1)) performed a treadmill protocol at three running velocities (2.22, 2.78 and 3.33 m x s(-1)) using four footwear conditions: barefoot, uncushioned minimalist shoes, cushioned minimalist shoes, and standard running shoes. 3D kinematic analysis was performed to determine ankle and knee angles at initial foot-ground contact, rate of rear-foot strikes, stride frequency and step length. Ankle angle at foot strike, step length and stride frequency were significantly influenced by footwear conditions (p<0.001) at all running velocities. Posthoc pairwise comparisons showed significant differences (p<0.001) between running barefoot and all shod situations as well as between the uncushioned minimalistic shoe and both cushioned shoe conditions. The rate of rear-foot strikes was lowest during barefoot running (58.6% at 3.33 m x s(-1)), followed by running with uncushioned minimalist shoes (62.9%), cushioned minimalist (88.6%) and standard shoes (94.3%). Aside from showing the influence of shod conditions on running kinematics, this study helps to elucidate differences between footwear marked as minimalist shoes and their ability to mimic barefoot running adequately. These findings have implications on the use of footwear applied in future research debating the topic of barefoot or minimalist shoe running.

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