Running Shoes vs. Barefoot Running

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And so the controversy rages on… For many of you who breathlessly read Born to Run or The Barefoot Running Book and couldn’t wait to shuck your sneaks in favor of good old fashioned flesh, barefoot running just makes sense. Lots of other runners are sticking with traditional shoe tech, while some of you are trying your hand (er…foot) at more minimal footwear options.

So Who’s Right?

We’re not about to call any balls or strikes on that issue. But a recent study from the University of Colorado (read more details here) has been bouncing around the past couple of weeks. This study, the first of its kind, found that running in the Nike Mayfly (one of the lightest running shoes currently available) offered a limited physiological edge over going barefoot.

As many bloggers have already pointed out, there are all sorts of complications inherent in designing and carrying out biomechanics studies. The results from the CU study – that runners wearing a featherweight running shoe may use 3 to 4% less energy than barefoot runners – are far from conclusive. We expect a lot more studies – and a lot more debate – in the coming years.

A Different Perspective

Performing well, staying healthy and enjoying the experience are at the top of every runner’s wish list. We can all agree on that. Whether running in shoes or running barefoot is “best” is really a false choice, and as many runners already know, the reality is a bit more complicated. Different styles of running will work for different runners in different conditions and for different objectives.

Not to end on a total kumbaya moment, but we’re glad to see so many runners continuing to tinker and experiment with new ways to train and race so they can build upon those three pillars of enjoyable running: performance, health and happiness. And we look forward to more objective research into the science of running, including studies on barefoot and shod styles.

What do you think? Have you tried minimal? Barefoot? Is a traditional trainer your only shoe for the foreseeable future? Share your experience with us.

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