Injury Rates Between Barefoot and Shoe Runners

The popularity of barefoot running, with or without the use of minimalist shoes, has grown since the publication of the book Born to Run.  In the book, the author argues that running was an essential part of our evolution and survival, but up to 80% of runners will sustain an injury in a given year.  A common question we are asked in our Boulder Physical Therapy practice involves the selection of running shoe wear and its' impact on performance and injury rates.  In summary, a patient selected running shoe has out performed a prescribed shoe in the recent research studies.  

A recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine examined the injury rates among runners who run in shoes (shod group) or barefoot (Altman et al. 2016).  To be considered in the barefoot group runners must run at least 50% of the time barefoot and use minimalist shoes for the remaining parts of their training week.  The authors followed 201 runners (107 barefoot and 94 shod) over the course of year to determine the incidence of future injury between the groups.  The authors hypothesized there would be less injuries in the barefoot group due to their use of a fore foot strike pattern which has been previously associated with decreased impact forces.  

Close to 350 running injuries were reported between the groups with the foot being the most commonly injured area in both groups.  The runners in the barefoot group reported less injuries in other areas of the body compared the shod group.  Overall the barefoot group experienced less injuries than the shod group, but their mileage was less than the shod group.  When the authors controlled for this variable there were no significant difference in injury rates between groups.  The authors concluded that barefoot running was a safe alternative for running if used properly.  

To learn more about shoe wear and running contact your local Physical Therapy experts.