New Study Says Barefoot Running is Different From Minimalist-Shoe Running.

What Does This Mean? We Still Don’t Know

By Amby Burfoot

A new study from a highly regarded running biomechanics lab might excite barefoot running purists. It might depress minimalist-shoe fans. It definitely raises new questions. And it might cause us to look at foot strike in a new way.

In any case, the study could not say if landing patterns or different kinds of shoes would reduce runner injuries. It wasn’t designed as an injury study. It also didn’t attempt to say if one form of running or running shoes was more efficient than another. (See the study abstract here.)

The study, from Joe Hamill’s Umass lab, seems to imply that runners dislike heel-shock pain. To avoid heel shock, barefoot runners land first on the midfoot and then lower their heel to the ground, reducing heel impact and pain. But there’s another way to reduce heel pain: You can wear shoes.

Surprisingly, the thickness (cushioning) of the shoes has little effect. Very thin minimalist shoes and very thick, highly cushioned shoes seem to perform about the same. This isn’t actually much of a surprise if you have followed the Benno Nigg "new paradigm," which says that shoe cushioning doesn’t do much of what it’s presumed to do.

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