Effect of Minimalist Footwear on Running Efficiency: A Randomized Crossover Trial

Friday, February 12, 2016
Stephen Gillinov, Harvard University, Moreland Hills, OH
Although minimalist footwear is increasingly popular among runners, claims that minimalist footwear enhances running efficiency are controversial. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that minimalist and barefoot conditions improve running efficiency when compared to traditional running shoes. In this experiment, experienced runners (n=15) completed three, 90-second running trials on a treadmill, each with a different type of footwear: traditional shoes with a heavily cushioned heel, minimalist shoes with minimal heel cushioning, and barefoot. High-speed photography was used to determine foot strike, ground contact time, knee angle, and stride cadence. Runners had more rearfoot strikes in traditional shoes (87%), compared to minimalist shoes (67%) and barefoot (40%) (p=0.03). Ground contact time was longest in traditional shoes (265.9 ± 10.9 ms) when compared to minimalist shoes (253.4 ± 11.2 ms) and barefoot (250.6 ± 16.2 ms) (p=0.005). There was no difference between groups with respect to knee angle (p=0.37) or stride cadence (p=0.20). When compared to traditional shoes, both the barefoot condition and minimalist shoes produce greater running efficiency, as shown by a greater tendency toward a midfoot or forefoot strike and a shorter ground contact time. Additionally, minimalist shoes closely approximate the barefoot condition in the four measurements performed. Therefore, with regard to running biomechanics and efficiency, minimalist footwear is preferable to traditional shoes.