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Still Much to Learn About Barefoot Running


Runners are shedding their shoes. They're going barefoot or opting for minimalist shoes, spawning a one-point-seven billion dollar industry. Proponents say barefoot or minimalist running strengthens the feet and legs and causes fewer injuries, but the research is unclear.

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[Olympic runner Zola Budd trained and competed barefoot]

Minimalist running shoes are designed to mimic barefoot running while offering your feet a bit of protection. University of Central Florida Physical Therapy instructor Carey Rothschild said approximately 80-percent of the runners she recently surveyed said they’re interested in barefoot and minimalist running, but research into potential benefits is still fairly new. She said one upcoming study is expected to look at whether everyone should start out as a barefoot runner. “Should we maybe be having our adolescents run in less supportive shoes so that the foot musculature learns to support itself, rather than having support come from the shoe wear,” she said.

A study recently presented at the American College of Sports Medicine looked at whether running in minimalist shoes increases foot strength and arch height, but the study found no changes after a ten week period. However, researchers said it may take more than 10 weeks to see a difference. 

 

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