The Running Trend That's Actually Better For Beginners

Photo: Courtesy of REI.
We've all seen those weird FiveFingers toe shoes. And, we've judged them — hard. But, now that we've had our fun, new research suggests that barefoot running (and, by association, "barefoot" running in five-toed shoes, which support the same form as going shoeless) may be just the thing for people new to the sport.

The small study was presented this week at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. In it, investigators looked at the strike patterns of 26 seasoned runners over the age of 30 (participants each had at least 10 years of running experience). They were tested on treadmills at various speeds, both barefoot and using regular running shoes, which typically have cushioning that causes runners to land on their heels. The researchers used motion-capture technology to see how the runners' feet hit the treadmill. 

Results showed that, overall, changing to barefoot running caused participants to favor a forefoot-strike pattern, which is considered a more "natural" running style than one with a prominent heel strike. But, many people (40% of men and 20% of women) still used their already-established heel strikes. This is interesting since all of these study participants were in their 30s or older, and previous research has suggested that younger runners — as well as those who are newer to the sport — can adapt to the forefoot-strike style much more quickly and, therefore, without as much risk of injury.

So, the much-maligned barefoot "toe shoes" may yet have their day in the sun. And, now that the sun is actually starting to make some appearances, this might be the perfect time to try them — especially if you're a newbie.
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