In recent years, there has been an explosion in barefoot running as well as the use of “minimalist” running shoes that more closely resemble barefoot running by encouraging the balls of the feet between the arch and toes to hit the pavement first. The surge in interest in barefoot running has raised a debate about how the foot should land on the ground when running without shoes. Many barefoot running protagonists argues that the ball of the foot between the arch and the toe should land first, not the heel. Now, a new study suggests older runners may find it harder to change from heel first to the ball first and this could raise risk of injury.
In this study, the team measured the heel-to-toe, drop of 26 runners, all age 30 or older with at least 10 years of running experience, when each ran on a traditional running shoe, and again when barefoot. “Previous studies have demonstrated that an adolescent runner’s foot strike is heavily influenced by their running shoe. Young runners quickly adapt to a forefoot striking pattern when running barefoot, whereas a heel strike is normally associated with wearing large-heeled training shoes.”
A motion capture system was used to analyze foot strikes.Running barefoot resulted in a significant drop in percent heel strike at all speeds.However, 40 percent of the men and 20 percent of the women persisted with consistent strike patterns across all speeds with and without shoes. Maintaining a heel-toe pattern while running barefoot or in a minimalist shoe may lead to more frequent injuries, the authors concluded.